Effect of the Chain Length and Temperature on the Adhesive Properties of Alkanethiol Self-Assembled Monolayers

Stable and hydrophobic self-assembled monolayers of alkanethiols are promising materials for use as lubricants in microdevices and nanodevices. We applied high-rate dynamic force spectroscopy measurements to study in detail the influence of the chain length and temperature on the adhesion between methyl-terminated thiol monolayers and a silicon nitride tip. We used the Johnson–Kendall–Roberts model to calculate the number of molecules in adhesive contact and then the Dudko–Hummer–Szabo model to extract the information about the position and the height of the activation barrier per single molecule. Both parameters were determined and analyzed in the temperature range from 25 to 65 °C for three thiols: 1-decanethiol (measured previously), 1-tetradecanethiol, and 1-hexadecanethiol. We associate the increase of the activation barrier parameters versus the chain length with lower stiffness of longer molecules and higher effectiveness of adhesive bond formation. However, we relate the thermal changes of the parameters rather to rearrangements of molecules than to the direct influence of temperature on the adhesive bonds.