Department of Interface Science

Research in the Department of Interface Science focusses on the understanding of novel physico-chemical properties of nanostructured materials at gas/liquid/solid interfaces. Using advanced synthesis and plasma-based surface modification techniques, we develop customized materials with optimized performance for a variety of applications in heterogeneous thermal catalysis and electrochemistry including those relevant in the fields of energy conversion and environmental science (e.g. the transformation of CO2 to valuable chemicals and fuels). Examples of such systems include size-controlled metal nanoparticles, nanostructures with selected shapes (cubes, prisms, dendrites) and surface-modified thin films and multilayers. In order to achieve in depth knowledge of the dynamic behavior of surfaces and interfaces in different chemical environments we employ a wide range of state-of-the-art in-house and synchrotron-based microscopy and spectroscopy characterization methods. The latter include scanning probe and electron microscopy (STM, AFM, SEM, TEM), X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS), nuclear resonant inelastic X-ray scattering (NRIXS), X-ray absorption fine-structure spectroscopy (XAFS), and mass spectroscopy/gas chromatography. These techniques allow us to find correlations between the morphology, elemental composition, chemical state, electronic properties and lattice dynamics of nanoscale materials and their catalytic activity and selectivity. The ultimate goal of our research program is being able to tune catalytic performance at the atomic level.