If we look around, everything we see is surfaces. What we cannot see, however, are the atomistic and electronic processes that occur at surfaces (and interfaces), playing a crucial role in the properties, function, and performance of advanced materials and in nano-scale technologies.
Basic research in surface and interface science is highly interdisciplinary, covering the fields of physics, chemistry, bio-physics, geo-, atmospheric and environmental sciences, material science, chemical engineering, and more. The various phenomena are interesting by themselves, and they are most important in nearly all modern technologies, as for example electronic, magnetic, and optical devices, sensors, catalysts, lubricants, hard and thermal-barrier coatings, protection against corrosion and crack formation under harsh environments. In fact, detailed understanding of the elementary processes at surfaces is necessary to support and to advance the high technology that very much founds the prosperity and life style of our society.
The strength of Surface Science as a discipline has been recognized by the award of the 2007 Nobel Prize in Chemistry to Prof. Dr. Gerhard Ertl "for his studies of chemical processes on solid surfaces".
Current state-of-the-art experimental studies of elementary processes at surfaces, of surface properties and functions employ a variety of sophisticated tools. Some are capable to reveal the location and motion of individual atoms. Others measure excitations (electronic, magnetic, vibronic), for example employing special light sources such as synchrotrons, high magnetic fields, or free electron lasers.
The surprising variety of intriguing physical phenomena at surfaces, interfaces, and nanostructures also pose a persistent challenge for the development of theoretical descriptions, methods, and even basic physical concepts. First-principles electronic structure theory plays a significant role, and multiscale modeling approaches that add methods from statistical mechanics and continuum theory are becoming increasingly important.
The DPG Surface Science Division collaborates with the German Vacuum Society (Deutsche Vakuum Gesellschaft e.V.).