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Surface Science (SUS)


Elective course MSc Chemistry, MSc Physics, MSc Astronomy

Entry requirements

BSc in Molecular Science of Technology, Physics or Astronomy.


Many properties of solids are strongly influenced or even determined by the behavior of the outermost atomic layers of the material, the surface. Surfaces are also key to many physical and chemical processes occurring at the interface of a material and its surroundings. For example, heterogeneous catalysis and electrochemistry rely on special surface properties of particular metals and metal oxides. Yet, surfaces form a relatively young field of research in chemistry, physics and even astronomy. In this course, we discuss a wide collection of surface phenomena and surface properties, such as the geometrical structure, surface diffusion, adsorption and desorption, elementary chemical reactions, and the relation between surface science studies and heterogeneous catalysis. Throughout the course, we pay ample attention to surface-specific experimental techniques, ranging from those that provide information on surface structure and ordering of adsorbates to those that identify the elemental composition, oxidation states, and molecular structure of adsorbates. We also visit laboratories at the LIC and LION that are active in surface studies and directly related research. Every week, a new subject is introduced by a single 45-minute lecture and one of the participants presents a paper from the recent scientific literature in relation to a previously discussed topic.

Course objectives

At the end of the course students:

  • have gained basic knowledge of the structure of surfaces;

  • understand physical and chemical phenomena taking place at solid surfaces as outlined above;

  • can describe and explain how common experimental techniques reveal information on surfaces and adsorbates;

  • are capable of applying this knowledge to solve problems related to physical and chemical aspects of solid surfaces;

  • have learned to digest and present a summary of a scientific article from the literature.

    In addition, students learn to digest and present a text in the field of surface science from the recent scientific literature.

Mode of instruction

Lectures, student presentations, lab excursions and home study


Active participation via BlackBoard discussion on scientific articles and peer-review of presentations (20%) Presentation by students (40%) Written examination (40%).


The course is based on the following books:

  • Surface Science: An Introduction, K. Oura, V.G. Lifshits, A.A. Saranin, A.V. Zotov, and M. Katayama, Springer 2003 (or reprint from 2010)

  • Surface Science: Foundations of Catalysis and Nanoscience, 3rd ed., K. Kolasinski, Wiley 2012
    In addition, ~15 articles from the primary surface science literature are used.

Admission requirements

BSc in MST with a major in Chemistry, a BSc in Physics or a BSc in Astronomy. Other students should be familiar with basic concepts from physical chemistry/chemical physics, in particular those generally discussed in standard (one-semester) courses on quantum chemistry/physics, chemical kinetics, spectroscopy, and statistical thermodynamics.


Dr. L.B.F. Juurlink:


Biennial course; this course will be given in 2020-21.