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Journal Article

Core-Level Photoelectron Angular Distributions at the Liquid–Vapor Interface


Dupuy,  Remi
Inorganic Chemistry, Fritz Haber Institute, Max Planck Society;


Richter,  Clemens
Inorganic Chemistry, Fritz Haber Institute, Max Planck Society;


Buttersack,  Tillmann
Molecular Physics, Fritz Haber Institute, Max Planck Society;


Trinter,  Florian
Molecular Physics, Fritz Haber Institute, Max Planck Society;


Winter,  Bernd
Molecular Physics, Fritz Haber Institute, Max Planck Society;


Bluhm,  Hendrik
Inorganic Chemistry, Fritz Haber Institute, Max Planck Society;

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Dupuy, R., Thürmer, S., Richter, C., Buttersack, T., Trinter, F., Winter, B., et al. (2023). Core-Level Photoelectron Angular Distributions at the Liquid–Vapor Interface. Accounts of Chemical Research, 56(3), 215-223. doi:10.1021/acs.accounts.2c00678.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-000C-896C-1
Conspectus: Photoelectron spectroscopy (PES) is a powerful tool for the investigation of liquid–vapor interfaces, with applications in many fields from environmental chemistry to fundamental physics. Among the aspects that have been addressed with PES is the question of how molecules and ions arrange and distribute themselves within the interface, that is, the first few nanometers into solution. This information is of crucial importance, for instance, for atmospheric chemistry, to determine which species are exposed in what concentration to the gas-phase environment. Other topics of interest include the surface propensity of surfactants, their tendency for orientation and self-assembly, as well as ion double layers beneath the liquid–vapor interface. The chemical specificity and surface sensitivity of PES make it in principle well suited for this endeavor. Ideally, one would want to access complete atomic-density distributions along the surface normal, which, however, is difficult to achieve experimentally for reasons to be outlined in this Account. A major complication is the lack of accurate information on electron transport and scattering properties, especially in the kinetic-energy regime below 100 eV, a pre-requisite to retrieving the depth information contained in photoelectron signals.In this Account, we discuss the measurement of the photoelectron angular distributions (PADs) as a way to obtain depth information. Photoelectrons scatter with a certain probability when moving through the bulk liquid before being expelled into a vacuum. Elastic scattering changes the electron direction without a change in the electron kinetic energy, in contrast to inelastic scattering. Random elastic-scattering events usually lead to a reduction of the measured anisotropy as compared to the initial, that is, nascent PAD. This effect that would be considered parasitic when attempting to retrieve information on photoionization dynamics from nascent liquid-phase PADs can be turned into a powerful tool to access information on elastic scattering, and hence probing depth, by measuring core-level PADs. Core-level PADs are relatively unaffected by effects other than elastic scattering, such as orbital character changes due to solvation. By comparing a molecule’s gas-phase angular anisotropy, assumed to represent the nascent PAD, with its liquid-phase anisotropy, one can estimate the magnitude of elastic versus inelastic scattering experienced by photoelectrons on their way to the surface from the site at which they were generated. Scattering events increase with increasing depth into solution, and thus it is possible to correlate the observed reduction in angular anisotropy with the depth below the surface along the surface normal. We will showcase this approach for a few examples. In particular, our recent works on surfactant molecules demonstrated that one can indeed probe atomic distances within these molecules with a high sensitivity of ∼1 Å resolution along the surface normal. We were also able to show that the anisotropy reduction scales linearly with the distance along the surface normal within certain limits. The limits and prospects of this technique are discussed at the end, with a focus on possible future applications, including depth profiling at solid–vapor interfaces.