How water flips at charged titanium dioxide: an SFG-study on the water–TiO2 interface
Photocatalytic splitting of water into hydrogen and oxygen by utilizing sunlight and a photocatalyst is a promising way of generating clean energy. Here, we report a molecular-level study on heavy water (D2O) interacting with TiO2 as a model photocatalyst. We employed the surface specific technique Sum-Frequency-Generation (SFG) spectroscopy to determine the nature of the hydrogen bonding environment and the orientation of interfacial water molecules using their OD-stretch vibrations as reporters. By examining solutions with various pD-values, we observe an intensity-minimum at around pD 5, corresponding to the balance of protonation and deprotonation of TiO2 (point of zero charge). The majority of water molecules’ deuterium atoms point away from the interface when the pD is below 5, and point towards the surface when the pD is higher than 5, with strong hydrogen bonds towards the surface.