The dynamics of monolayer films of the n-alkane tetracosane (n-C24H52) and the branched alkane squalane (C30H62) adsorbed on graphite have been studied by quasielastic and inelastic neutron scattering and molecular dynamics (MD) simulations. Both molecules have 24 carbon atoms along their carbon backbone, and squalane has an additional six methyl side groups symmetrically placed along its length. The authors' principal objective has been to determine the influence of the side groups on the dynamics of the squalane monolayer and thereby assess its potential as a nanoscale lubricant. To investigate the dynamics of these monolayers they used both the disk chopper spectrometer (DCS) and the high flux backscattering spectrometer (HFBS) at the National Institute of Standards and Technology. These instruments made it possible to study dynamical processes such as molecular diffusive motions and vibrations on very different time scales: 1-40 ps (DCS) and 0.1-4 ns (HFBS). The MD simulations were done on corresponding time scales and were used to interpret the neutron spectra. The authors found that the dynamics of the two monolayers are qualitatively similar on the respective time scales and that there are only small quantitative differences that can be understood in terms of the different masses and moments of inertia of the two molecules. In the course of this study, the authors developed a procedure to separate out the low-frequency vibrational modes in the spectra, thereby facilitating an analysis of the quasielastic scattering. They conclude that there are no major differences in the monolayer dynamics caused by intramolecular branching. It remains to be seen whether this similarity in monolayer dynamics also holds for the lubricating properties of these molecules in confined geometries. (c) 2007 American Institute of Physics.
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- DIFFUSIVE MOTIONS