Mechanism of atomic force microscopy imaging of three-dimensional hydration structures at a solid-liquid interface
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Here we present both subnanometer imaging of three-dimensional (3D) hydration structures using atomic force microscopy (AFM) and molecular dynamics simulations of the calcite-water interface. In AFM, by scanning the 3D interfacial space in pure water and recording the force on the tip, a 3D force image can be produced, which can then be directly compared to the simulated 3D water density and forces on a model tip. Analyzing in depth the resemblance between experiment and simulation as a function of the tip-sample distance allowed us to clarify the contrast mechanism in the force images and the reason for their agreement with water density distributions. This work aims to form the theoretical basis for AFM imaging of hydration structures and enables its application to future studies on important interfacial processes at the molecular scale.
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