Surface Physics

Our group specialises in surface physics at the solid-liquid interface, with a particular interest in electrodeposition, the formation of a metal film on an electrode surface by means of an electrochemical reaction. This process can be studied for films down to the thickness of a single atom.  Metal electrodeposition is not only a fascinating and complex phenomenon, but plays crucial roles in  applications from catalysts for fuel cells to ultra-large-scale integrated circuits.   

We also investigate ice nucleation, and ice-nanoparticle interactions.

Magnetoresistance of multi-layered electrodeposited nanowires

Our third area of research is in molecular spintronics, where we are interested in the transport of electron spin through single molecules.

We are always interested to hear from prospective students or researchers interested in collaborative work.

‌PhD opportunities in the Surface Physics Group

Connecting microstructure and morphology: the physics of polycrystalline electrodeposited films

This is an important research topic, because metal electrodeposition plays an essential role in applications from corrosion-resistant coatings to ultra-large-scale integrated circuits.  Since critical processes affecting the bulk microstructure take place at the surface, establishing detailed mechanisms requires a combination of surface and bulk data from the same region of film.  In this project, you will grow films in lithographically patterned templates a few tens of µm in diameter.  This will enable you to probe the surface topography using atomic force microscopy (AFM) during growth, then characterize the grains and grain boundaries (microstructure) in the same region ex-situ using focussed ion beam milling followed by electron backscatter diffraction.  The data will provide a unique new insight into a long-standing problem: understanding the microstructure and morphology of polycrystalline electrodeposited metal films.  

 Supervisor: Prof Walther Schwarzacher

Ice nucleation

‌Ice nucleation is crucially important in contexts ranging from environmental science to medicine, materials science and mineralogy.  Heterogeneous ice nucleation is a key process in atmospheric cloud formation, while in cryobiology it is essential to avoid or control ice nucleation, because of the damage that ice crystals can do to cell structures.  This project will study ice nucleation by nanoparticles, investigating the links between ice nucleation, surface structure and surface chemistry in a collaboration between the Schools of Physics and Earth Sciences.  We will use a newly-developed magnetic method to probe ice-nanoparticle interactions, in addition to carrying out optical and other measurements of the nucleation process itself. 

Supervisors: Prof Walther Schwarzacher and Dr Alison Rust

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