A combination of in situ vibrational sum-frequency generation (SFG) spectroscopy and molecular-dynamics (MD) simulations has allowed us to study the effects of indentation of self-assembled octadecylphosphonic acid (ODPA) monolayers on α-Al2O3(0001). Stress-induced changes in the vibrational signatures of C–H stretching vibrations in SFG spectra and the results of MD simulations provide clear evidence for an increase in gauche-defect density in the monolayer as a response to indentation. A stress-dependent analysis indicates that the defect density reaches saturation at approximately 155 MPa. After stress is released, the MD simulations show an almost instantaneous healing of pressure-induced defects in good agreement with experimental results. The lateral extent of the contact areas was studied with colocalized SFG spectroscopy and compared to theoretical predictions for pressure gradients from Hertzian contact theory. SFG experiments reveal a gradual increase in gauche-defect density with pressure before saturation close to the contact center. Furthermore, our MD simulations show a spatial anisotropy of pressure-induced effects within ODPA domains: molecules tilted in the direction of the pressure gradient increase in tilt angle while those on the opposite side form gauche-defects.
- Self-Assembled Monolayer