Density functional study of a typical thiol tethered on a gold surface: ruptures under normal or parallel stretch
The mechanical and dynamical properties of a model Au(111)/thiol surface system were investigated by using localized atomic-type orbital density functional theory in the local density approximation. Relaxing the system gives a configuration where the sulfur atom forms covalent bonds to two adjacent gold atoms as the lowest energy structure. Investigations based on ab initio molecular dynamics simulations at 300, 350 and 370 K show that this tethering system is stable. The rupture behaviour between the thiol and the surface was studied by displacing the free end of the thiol. Calculated energy profiles show a process of multiple successive ruptures that account for experimental observations. The process features successive ruptures of the two Au–S bonds followed by the extraction of one S-bonded Au atom from the surface. The force required to rupture the thiol from the surface was found to be dependent on the direction in which the thiol was displaced, with values comparable with AFM measurements. These results aid the understanding of failure dynamics of Au(111)-thiol-tethered biosurfaces in microfluidic devices where fluidic shear and normal forces are of concern.