Adhesion is one of the most interesting subjects in interface phenomena from the viewpoint of wide-range applications as well as basic science. Interfacial water has significant effects on coatings, adhesives, and fiber-reinforced polymer composites, often causing adhesion loss. The way of thinking based on quantum mechanics is essential for a better understanding of physical and chemical properties of adhesive interfaces. In this work, the molecular mechanism of the adhesion interaction between epoxy resin and hydroxylated alumina surface in the presence of interfacial water molecules is investigated by using density-functional tight-binding calculations. Periodic slab model calculations demonstrate that hydrogen bond is an important factor at the adhesion interface. Effects of interfacial water molecules located between epoxy resin and hydroxylated alumina surface are assessed by using a dry model without interfacial water and wet models with water layers of 3, 6, and 9 Å thicknesses. Interesting first- and second-layer structures are observed in the distribution of interfacial water molecules in the tight space between the adhesive and adherend. Energy plots with respect to the displacement of epoxy resin from the alumina surface are nicely approximated by the Morse potential. The adhesion force and stress are theoretically obtained by differentiating the potential curve with respect to the displacement of epoxy resin. Computational results show that the adhesion force and stress are significantly weakened with an increase in the thickness of interfacial water layer. Thus, interfacial water molecules have a clue as to the role of water in the loss of adhesion.
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