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Surface Science (SUS)


Admission requirements

Elective course MSc Chemistry, MSc Physics, MSc Astronomy
For students with a BSc in MST with a major in Chemistry/materials, a BSc in Physics or a BSc in Astronomy or equivalent. 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.


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 with high societal value. For example, heterogeneous (electro)catalysis relies on special surface properties of particular metals and metal oxides. Deposition and growth of semiconductors is critical to the electronics industry. Yet, surfaces form a relatively young field of research in chemistry, physics and even astronomy.

A very wide collection of surface phenomena and surface properties, experimental surface sensitive techniques, and theoretical approaches to describing surface phenomena could be studied in this course. Beyond geometrical surface structure, surface crystallography and low energy electron diffraction, the exact topics in this course are, however, determined by student interest. Students write the textbook for this course, each couple of students contributing one chapter. The chapter topic is chosen from a limited list provided by the lecturer containing potential subjects, e.g. surface thermodynamics, surface diffusion, melting, adsorption and desorption, elementary chemical reactions, a large range of surface-sensitive techniques, microscopies and spectroscopies, and surface science for heterogeneous catalysis. Using peer review, the entire class optimizes the textbook that they create and study together.

Beyond two initial meetings (one online and one on campus), most of the course work is performed through self-study and peer review. For self-study and writing of their chapter, other textbooks used in the field, internet resources and primary literature are used. Students meet weekly online with the lecturer. Every week, they also provide and obtain feedback in the form of peer review with a different couple of peers on their writing.

At the end of the course, all student couples present the final version of their chapter and its essential parts in an on-campus presentation to their peers. The presentation aims to help other students in the class study for a written exam.

Course objectives

At the end of the course students

  • have learned to digest information from a variety of books, internet sources and primary literature on a topic of choice within the field of surface science;

  • have learned to summarize and present this information in the form of a book chapter on Surface Science written for students by students, including sample exercises;

  • have gained basic knowledge of the structure of surfaces, various physical and chemical phenomena taking place at solid surfaces, and common experimental techniques that reveal information on surfaces and adsorbates;

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


Physics Schedule
For detailed information go to Timetable in Brightspace

Mode of instruction

Lectures/meetings, self-study, peer review and student presentations. See course description above for details.
For peer-review and writing, online resources, e.g. BrightSpace, Pitch-to-Peer, FeedbackFruits, Google Docs and/or Overleaf may be used.

Assessment method

Active participation in peer-review (20%)
Identified contributions to a written book chapter (60%)
Written examination (20%)
The grade for each component of the assessment must exceed an unrounded 6.0 grade to pass the course.

Reading list

The course material may be based on books such as

  • 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

  • Surface Science: An Introduction, John B. Hudson, Wiley and sons, 1998, ISBN 9780471252399,

  • Introduction to Surface Chemistry and Catalysis, Gabor A. Somorjai
    Wiley, 2nd edition, 2010. ISBN 9780470508237

In addition, students will read articles from the primary surface science literature.

The written examination is based on the textbook chapters created by the student group during the course.


Register for this course via uSis


Dr. L.B.F. Juurlink


According to OER article 4.8, students are entitled to view their marked examination for a period of 30 days following the publication of the results of a written examination. Students should contact the lecturer to make an appointment for such an inspection session.