Tailoring the Strength of Nanoporous Gold by Self-Assembled Monolayers of Alkanethiols


Because of the large specific surface area, the properties of nanoporous metals and in particular their mechanical properties are sensitive to chemical modifications of their surfaces. Here, we exploit self-assembled monolayers (SAMs) to modify a surface of nanoporous gold and study their effect on plastic behavior. The SAMs investigated here (i) are made from alkanethiols, which consist of a sulfur headgroup that strongly binds to metal substrates, a hydrocarbon chain, and an end group, and (ii) are known to spontaneously self-organize into well-ordered, dense two-dimensional molecular films on the surface of coinage metals. Alkanethiols with various chain lengths and terminal groups were used to prepare SAMs on bulk nanoporous gold, and compression tests were performed on the SAM-modified and nonmodified macroscopic samples. Our experiments reveal a substantial, up to 50%, increase of the flow stress due to thiol adsorption. We attribute the strengthening to the adsorption locking of dislocation end points at the surface, which is mediated by the fairly strong metal–sulfur interaction.
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