• Dupuy, R.; Filser, J.; Richter, C.; Seidel, R.; Trinter, F.; Buttersack, T.; Nicolas, C.; Bozek, J.; Hergenhahn, U.; Oberhofer, H.; Winter, B.; Reuter, K.; Bluhm, H.: Photoelectron angular distributions as sensitive probes of surfactant layer structure at the liquid-vapor interface. Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics 24 (2022), p. 4796-4808

Open Access Version

The characterization of liquid–vapor interfaces at the molecular level is an important underpinning for a basic understanding of fundamental heterogeneous processes in many areas, such as atmospheric science. Here we use X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy to study the adsorption of a model surfactant, octanoic acid, at the water–gas interface. In particular, we examine the information contained in photoelectron angular distributions and show that information about the relative depth of molecules and functional groups within molecules can be obtained from these measurements. Focusing on the relative location of carboxylate (COO−) and carboxylic acid (COOH) groups at different solution pH, the former is found to be immersed deeper into the liquid–vapor interface, which is confirmed by classical molecular dynamics simulations. These results help establish photoelectron angular distributions as a sensitive tool for the characterization of molecules at the liquid–vapor interface.