The recorded history of organic monolayer and multilayer thin films spans approximately 4000 years. Fatty-acid-based monolayers were deposited on water by the ancients for applications ranging from fortune telling in King Hammurabis time (similar to 1800 BC, Mesopotamia) to stilling choppy waters for sailors and divers as reported by the Roman philosopher Pliny the Elder in similar to 78 AD, and then much later (1774) by the peripatetic American statesman and natural philosopher Benjamin Franklin, to Japanese "floating-ink" art (suminagashi) developed similar to 1000 years ago. The modern science of organic monolayers began in the late-1800s/early-1900s with experiments by Lord Rayleigh and the important development by Agnes Pockels, followed two decades later by Irving Langmuir, of the tools and technology to measure the surface tension of liquids, the surface pressure of organic monolayers deposited on water, interfacial properties, molecular conformation of the organic layers, and phase transitions which occur upon compressing the monolayers. In 1935, Katherine Blodgett published a landmark paper showing that multilayers can be synthesized on solid substrates, with controlled thickness and composition, using an apparatus now known as the Langmuir-Blodgett (L-B) trough. A disadvantage of LB films for some applications is that they form weak physisorbed bonds to the substrate. In 1946, Bigelow, Pickett, and Zisman demonstrated, in another seminal paper, the growth of organic self-assembled monolayers (SAMs) via spontaneous adsorption from solution, rather than from the water/air interface, onto SiO2 and metal substrates. SAMs are close-packed two-dimensional organic crystals which exhibit strong covalent bonding to the substrate. The first multicomponent adsorbed monolayers and multilayer SAMs were produced in the early 1980s. Langmuir monolayers, L-B multilayers, and self-assembled mono- and multilayers have found an extraordinarily broad range of applications including controlled wetting, adhesion, electrochemistry, biocompatibility, molecular recognition, biosensing, cell biology, non-linear optics, molecular electronics, solar cells, read/write/erase memory, and magnetism. (C) 2015 AIP Publishing LLC.
American Institute of Physics (AIP) , 2015. Vol. 2, no 1, 011101