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Applications of organic chemistry to modify structure and surface properties
of materials are becoming increasingly important and interdisciplinary as
the dimensions of modern materials decrease. This laboratory exercise
illustrates how macroscopic material properties can be modified with
self-assembled monolayers and organic thin-film patterning. Using an
inexpensive gold on vinyl substrate, students investigate the wettability of
surfaces prepared using functionalized alkanethiol monolayers with either
hydrophobic or hydrophilic terminating groups. The functionalized
alkanethiols are used with microcontact printing techniques to pattern a
surface that can be visualized in the presence of water vapor. The
self-assembly of alkanethiol monolayers is ideally suited to introduce waste
reduction, dematerialization, and improved energy efficiency as green
chemistry principles. In addition, self-assembly produces less solvent
waste compared to spin coating techniques commonly used to prepare surface
Supplemental materials are provided on the J. Chem. Educ. website and include detailed introductory and background information, instructions for students and notes for the instructors.
Summary prepared May 2005 by Julie A. Haack, Department of Chemistry at the University of Oregon.
McKenzie, L. C.; Huffman, L. M.; Parent, K. E.; Hutchison, J. E.; Thompson, J. E. J. Chem. Educ., Print 2004, 81, pp 545-548.