Water at charged interfaces

Grazia Gonella, Ellen H.G. Backus, Yuki Nagata, Douwe J. Bonthuis, Philip Loche, Alexander Schlaich, Roland R. Netz, Angelika Kühnle, Ian T. McCrum, Marc T.M. Koper, Martin Wolf, Bernd Winter, Gerard Meijer, R. Kramer Campen, Mischa Bonn*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The ubiquity of aqueous solutions in contact with charged surfaces and the realization that the molecular-level details of water–surface interactions often determine interfacial functions and properties relevant in many natural processes have led to intensive research. Even so, many open questions remain regarding the molecular picture of the interfacial organization and preferential alignment of water molecules, as well as the structure of water molecules and ion distributions at different charged interfaces. While water, solutes and charge are present in each of these systems, the substrate can range from living tissues to metals. This diversity in substrates has led to different communities considering each of these types of aqueous interface. In this Review, by considering water in contact with metals, oxides and biomembranes, we show the essential similarity of these disparate systems. While in each case the classical mean-field theories can explain many macroscopic and mesoscopic observations, it soon becomes apparent that such theories fail to explain phenomena for which molecular properties are relevant, such as interfacial chemical conversion. We highlight the current knowledge and limitations in our understanding and end with a view towards future opportunities in the field. [Figure not available: see fulltext.]

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)466-485
Number of pages20
JournalNature Reviews Chemistry
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Chemical Engineering(all)


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