Using tobacco mosaic virus to probe enhanced surface diffusion of molecular glasses

Soft Matter. 2016 Nov 9;12(44):9115-9120. doi: 10.1039/c6sm01566b.


Recent studies have shown that diffusion on the surface of organic glasses can be many orders of magnitude faster than bulk diffusion. Developing new probes that can readily measure surface diffusion can help study the effect of parameters such as chemical structure, intermolecular interaction, molecules' shape and size on the enhanced surface diffusion. In this study, we develop a novel probe that significantly simplifies these types of studies. Tobacco mosaic virus (TMV) is used as probe particle to measure surface diffusion coefficient of molecular glass N,N'-bis(3-methylphenyl)-N,N'-diphenylbenzidine (TPD). The evolution of the meniscus formed around TMV is probed as a function of time at various temperatures. TMV has a well-defined, mono-dispersed, cylindrical shape, with a large aspect-ratio (average diameter of 16.6 nm, length of 300 nm). As such, the shape of the meniscus around the center of TMV is semi-two dimensional, which compared to using a nanosphere as probe, increases the driving force for meniscus formation and simplifies the analysis of surface diffusion. We show that under these conditions, after a short transient time the shape of the meniscus is self-similar, allowing accurate determination of the surface diffusion coefficient. Measurements at various temperatures are then performed to investigate the temperature dependence of the surface diffusion coefficient. It is found that surface diffusion is greatly enhanced in TPD and has a lower activation barrier compared to the bulk counterpart. These observations are consistent with previous studies of surface diffusion on molecular glasses, demonstrating the accuracy of this method.

MeSH terms

  • Diffusion*
  • Glass / chemistry*
  • Temperature
  • Tobacco Mosaic Virus*