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Surface science is the study of physical and chemical phenomena that occur at the interface of two phases, including solid–liquid interfaces, solid–gas interfaces, solid–vacuum interfaces, and liquid–gas interfaces. It includes the fields of surface chemistry and surface physics. Some related practical applications are classed as surface engineering. The science encompasses concepts such as heterogeneous catalysis, semiconductor device fabrication, fuel cells, self-assembled monolayers, and adhesives. Surface science is closely related to interface and colloid science. Interfacial chemistry and physics are common subjects for both. The methods are different. In addition, interface and colloid science studies macroscopic phenomena that occur in heterogeneous systems due to peculiarities of interfaces.
The field of surface chemistry started with heterogeneous catalysis pioneered by Paul Sabatier on hydrogenation and Fritz Haber on the Haber process. Irving Langmuir was also one of the founders of this field, and the scientific journal on surface science, Langmuir, bears his name. The Langmuir adsorption equation is used to model monolayer adsorption where all surface adsorption sites have the same affinity for the adsorbing species. Gerhard Ertl in 1974 described for the first time the adsorption of hydrogen on a palladium surface using a novel technique called LEED. Similar studies with platinum, nickel, and iron  followed. Most recent developments in surface sciences include the 2007 Nobel prize of Chemistry winner Gerhard Ertl's advancements in surface chemistry, specifically his investigation of the interaction between carbon monoxide molecules and platinum surfaces.
Surface chemistry can be roughly defined as the study of chemical reactions at interfaces. It is closely related to surface engineering, which aims at modifying the chemical composition of a surface by incorporation of selected elements or functional groups that produce various desired effects or improvements in the properties of the surface or interface. Surface chemistry also overlaps with electrochemistry. Surface science is of particular importance to the field of heterogeneous catalysis.
The behavior of a solution based interface is affected by the surface charge, dipoles, energies, and their distribution within the electrical double layer.
Surface physics can be roughly defined as the study of physical changes that occur at interfaces. It overlaps with surface chemistry. Some of the things investigated by surface physics include surface states, surface diffusion, surface reconstruction, surface phonons and plasmons, epitaxy and surface enhanced Raman scattering, the emission and tunneling of electrons, spintronics, and the self-assembly of nanostructures on surfaces.
The study and analysis of surfaces involves both physical and chemical analysis techniques.
Several modern methods probe the topmost 1–10 nm of surfaces exposed to vacuum. These include X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, Auger electron spectroscopy, low-energy electron diffraction, electron energy loss spectroscopy, thermal desorption spectroscopy, ion scattering spectroscopy, secondary ion mass spectrometry, dual polarization interferometry, and other surface analysis methods included in the list of materials analysis methods. Many of these techniques require vacuum as they rely on the detection of electrons or ions emitted from the surface under study. Moreover, in general ultra high vacuum, in the range of 10−7 pascal pressure or better, it is necessary to reduce surface contamination by residual gas, by reducing the number of molecules reaching the sample over a given time period. At 0.1 mPa (10−6 torr), it only takes 1 second to cover a surface with a contaminant, so much lower pressures are needed for measurements.
Purely optical techniques can be used to study interfaces under a wide variety of conditions. Reflection-absorption infrared, dual polarisation interferometry, surface enhanced Raman, and sum frequency generation spectroscopies can be used to probe solid–vacuum as well as solid–gas, solid–liquid, and liquid–gas surfaces. Dual Polarization Interferometry is used to quantify the order and disruption in birefringent thin films. This has been used, for example, to study the formation of lipid bilayers and their interaction with membrane proteins.
Modern physical analysis methods include scanning-tunneling microscopy (STM) and a family of methods descended from it. These microscopies have considerably increased the ability and desire of surface scientists to measure the physical structure of many surfaces. For example, they make it possible to follow reactions at the solid–gas interface in real space, if those proceed on a time scale accessible by the instrument.
- Prutton, Martin (1994). Introduction to Surface Physics. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-853476-0.
- Luklema, J. (1995–2005). Fundamentals of Interface and Colloid Science. 1–5. Academic Press.
- Wennerström, Håkan; Lidin, Sven. "Scientific Background on the Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2007 Chemical Processes on Solid Surfaces" (pdf).
- Conrad, H.; Ertl, G.; Latta, E.E. (February 1974). "Adsorption of hydrogen on palladium single crystal surfaces". Surface Science 41 (2): 435–446. Bibcode:1974SurSc..41..435C. doi:10.1016/0039-6028(74)90060-0.
- Christmann, K.; Ertl, G.; Pignet, T. (February 1976). "Adsorption of hydrogen on a Pt(111) surface". Surface Science 54 (2): 365–392. Bibcode:1976SurSc..54..365C. doi:10.1016/0039-6028(76)90232-6.
- Christmann, K.; Schober, O.; Ertl, G.; Neumann, M. (June 1, 1974). "Adsorption of hydrogen on nickel single crystal surfaces". The Journal of Chemical Physics 60 (11): 4528–4540. Bibcode:1974JChPh..60.4528C. doi:10.1063/1.1680935.
- Christmann, K.; Behm, R. J.; Ertl, G.; Van Hove, M. A.; Weinberg, W. H. (May 1, 1979). "Chemisorption geometry of hydrogen on Ni(111): Order and disorder". The Journal of Chemical Physics 70 (9): 4168–4184. Bibcode:1979JChPh..70.4168C. doi:10.1063/1.438041.
- Imbihl, R.; Behm, R. J.; Christmann, K.; Ertl, G.; Matsushima, T. (May 2, 1982). "Phase transitions of a two-dimensional chemisorbed system: H on Fe(110)". Surface Science 117: 257–266. Bibcode:1982SurSc.117..257I. doi:10.1016/0039-6028(82)90506-4.
- Mashaghi, A; Swann, M; Popplewell, J; Textor, M; Reimhult, E (2008). "Optical Anisotropy of Supported Lipid Structures Probed by Waveguide Spectroscopy and Its Application to Study of Supported Lipid Bilayer Formation Kinetics". Analytical Chemistry 80 (10): 3666. doi:10.1021/ac800027s. PMID 18422336.
- J. Wintterlin,S. Völkening,T. V. W. Janssens,T. Zambelli,G. Ertl (1997): Atomic and Macroscopic Reaction Rates of a Surface-Catalyzed Reaction In: Science 278:1931 doi:10.1126/science.278.5345.1931
- T. Waldmann et al. (2012): Oxidation of an Organic Adlayer: A Bird’s Eye View In: Journal of the American Chemical Society 134:8817 doi:10.1021/ja302593v
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Surface science.|
- "Ram Rao Materials and Surface Science", a video from the Vega Science Trust
- Surface Chemistry Discoveries
- Langmuir, a journal of the American Chemical Society