Nanoscale Observation of Alkane Delayering
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Noncontact Atomic Force Microscopy and synchrotron x-ray scattering measurements on dotriacontane (n-C32H66 or C32) films adsorbed on SiO2-coated Si(100) wafers reveal a narrow temperature range near the bulk C32 melting point Tb in which a monolayer phase of C32 molecules oriented perpendicular to surface is stable. This monolayer phase undergoes a delayering transition to a three-dimensional (3D) fluid phase on heating to just above Tb and to a solid 3D phase on cooling below Tb. An equilibrium phase diagram provides a useful framework for interpreting the unusual spreading and receding of the monolayer observed in transitions to and from the respective 3D phases.