Surface science is the study of chemical reactions and physical processes (e.g., phase transitions) that occur at surfaces and interfaces. Surfaces are WHERE THE ACTION IS, the "seat of communication between two phases." Atomic level characterization of solid surfaces is important for understanding and tailoring properties of nanoparticles and functional nanostructures. This is because of the strong "surface”—“nanoparticle” connection. There are two aspects to this: 1) surface -properties of- nanoparticles, and 2) nanoparticles -on- surfaces. By necessity, nanometer scale objects have a large part of their material present at the surface, and these atoms have different and unknown chemical and physical properties. Also, nanoparticles and nanometer-scale devices and structures are often deposited or constructed at a solid interface, and thus the surface properties and chemistry of that interface can control the construction, stability, and properties of the particle or device. Surface science is also at the heart of an enormous range of industrial processes, from heterogeneous catalysis in the chemical and petroleum industries to microelectronic device fabrication and characterization. Chemistry at surfaces controls hazardous gas sensors, adhesion, corrosion, and lubrication. Fields as esoteric (but exciting) as molecular robotics hinge on advances in surface science.
Our laboratories contain modern instrumentation and surface science apparatus that is at the cutting edge of analytical capability in the field. This assembly is matched in few other labs in the world. Each apparatus is designed to integrate a number of spectroscopic methods that can be used simultaneously, giving researchers a tremendously powerful, multitechnique approach to complicated and important problems in surface science. Equipment includes ultraviolet photoemission and ESCA/Auger electron spectrometers, angle-resolved ion scattering systems, high-resolution EELS spectrometers capable of operation at high beam energies, FT-IR spectrometers, LEED optics, a molecular beam scattering apparatus for measuring sticking coefficients and surface reaction rates, high pressure reaction chamber/sample transfer assemblies, and much more. All of our UHV chambers have sample holders that can be resistively heated, or that can use electron beam heating (for refractory metals, up to 2900 K), and cooled using liquid nitrogen to 90 K. All chambers have capabilities for reactive gas dosing, metal vapor deposition, Ar+ ion sputter cleaning, and temperature programmed desorption (TPD) using primarily I 100C quadrupole mass spectrometers.