The history of Langmuir monolayers and Langmuir-Blodgett films dates back around 100 years as the experiments made by Agnes Pockel, Irvine Langmuir, and Katharine Blodgett are often considered to pioneer research in the field. Both Langmuir and Langmuir-Blodgett have since been considered powerful techniques to both investigate the properties of the monolayer but also to produce highly organized thin films.
History of Langmuir and Langmuir-Blodgett
Although the recent history of Langmuir and Langmuir-Blodgett is considered to be around 100 years old, the technique was, unknowingly, utilized by Japanese ancient art, where ink floating on the surface of water was transferred on a sheet of paper. Later, before Pockels, Langmuir, and Blodgett times, Benjamin Franklin also played a role in the history of these monolayers. The timing for the work done by Langmuir and others was slightly unfortunate as the World Wars caused the basic research to be put on hold. The topic was revisited by Hans Kuhn in the 1960’s as he, together with his colleagues believed that the LB films were the ideal construct to study supramolecular machines.
With the work done by Kuhn and others at the time, LB technology was recognized as a powerful tool to produce thin films for various applications. The research initiated a series of LB conferences, the first held in New York, USA 1983. The ability of the LB technique to offer superior control and order on thin films kept researchers busy for several decades.
At the same time, Langmuir films were studied, partly as an independent path. Langmuir monolayer studies were not done only to determine optimum surface pressure for the layer transfer but also used as a tool to study the fundamental physicochemical properties of the monolayers. Langmuir monolayers have especially proven useful in the study of cell membranes as the layers can be used as membrane models. In addition, over the years, several different characterization techniques such as Brewster angle microscopy (BAM), Surface potential meter, infrared spectroscopy, and interfacial rheological tools have been combined with the Langmuir trough to provide more insights into the layer structures.
Present and past of the Langmuir and Langmuir-Blodgett
Today, Langmuir–Blodgett still finds its use in various fields. Rather than being a research topic of its own, Langmuir-Blodgett is now a tool to produce thin films for highly demanding applications. The first Langmuir films produced were lipids that have clear hydrophilic and hydrophobic parts. Nowadays, it’s well-known that LB can also be used to deposit other types of substances such as particles which in the traditional sense don’t have these different moieties.
The Langmuir and Langmuir-Blodgett techniques offer a unique tool to investigate phenomena at the air-water interface as well as the possibility to mimic biological phenomena. As the importance of interfaces and interfacial structures is understood in many applications, LB technology will find its use also in future research.
If you are interested in hearing what the researchers are doing today with the Langmuir-Blodgett technology, please sign up for the KSV NIMA user event through the link below.
Register to hear more about Langmuir-Blodgett
 Oliviera, O.N., Caseli, L., and Ariga, K. The past and the future of Langmuir and Langmuir-Blodgett Films, Chem. Rev. 122 (2022) 6459-6513
Susanna is an Application Scientist at Biolin Scientific. In her PhD thesis, she developed fabrication methods for a new type of inorganic-organic polymers. Microfabricated polymer chips were utilized as tool for biomolecule separation in analytical chemistry.