We report the real-time measurement of the ultrafast reorientational motion of water molecules at the water-air interface, using femtosecond time- and polarization-resolved vibrational sum-frequency spectroscopy. Vibrational excitation of dangling OH bonds along a specific polarization axis induces a transient anisotropy that decays due to the reorientation of vibrationally excited OH groups. The reorientation of interfacial water is shown to occur on sub-picosecond timescales, several times faster than in the bulk, which can be attributed to the lower degree of hydrogen bond coordination at the interface. MD simulations of interfacial water dynamics are in quantitative agreement with experimental observations and show that, unlike in bulk, the interfacial reorientation occurs in a largely diffusive manner.

Phys. Rev. Lett.

Hsieh, C.-S., Campen, R. K., Vila Verde, A., Bolhuis, P., Nienhuys, H.-K., & Bonn, M. (2011). Ultrafast reorientation of dangling OH groups at the air-water interface using femtosecond vibrational spectroscopy. Phys.Rev.Lett., 107(Article number: 116102), 1–5. doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.107.116102