Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

Dr. Yuguang Cai


Spreading plays an important role in coating, lubrication, printing and etc. During the spreading process, a liquid thin film forms prior to the expansion of a liquid drop. This thin film is called a precursor film. It not only changes the spreading mechanism, but impacts the wettability of a liquid. Early studies on the precursor films showed the films were stacked in a terraced structure, and the radius of each layer of the films was proportional to the square root of time. Optical techniques such as ellipsometry, X-ray diffraction and X-ray reflectivity solved the conformations of liquid molecules at the interfaces. However, the conformations of the interfacial molecules have rarely been correlated with their positions at the interface. In addition, the properties of the precursor films have not been fully studied yet.

In this dissertation, two kinds of organic compounds, hexatriacontane (C36) and 1-butyl-3-methylimidazolium ([Bmim][Cl]), are proposed to be spread over octadecyltrichlorosilane partially degraded (OTSpd) patterned surfaces. Once organic molecules flow over such OTSpd surfaces, the liquids are limited within the patterned area. Characterized by atomic force microscopy (AFM), the structures and chemical identities and the formation mechanism of the precursor films are resolved thereafter.

The precursor films formed by both compounds, C36 and [Bmim][Cl], were observed in a bilayer structure in that the molecules close to the solid substrate had different orientation from the molecules close to the air. They were called parallel layers and standing-up layers, respectively. The parallel layers of C36 formed prior to the standing-up layers through the vapor phase transport. In addition, the parallel layers were found more stable thermodynamically and the standing-up layers were more stable mechanically. The frictional study of C36 showed the standing-up layers could hold 0.49GPa pressure. The orientation of [Bmim][Cl] molecules were impacted by the polarities of the solid substrates.

The achievements in this dissertation not only resolve the properties of the precursor films of two organic compounds, but provide a general method for the further studies of the precursor films.