Laboratory for Surface Modification (LSM)


The Laboratory for Surface Modification (LSM) at Rutgers is a truly multidisciplinary endeavor, which provides a focus for research in basic and applied studies of high technology surfaces and interfaces. LSM brings together over 20 faculty in different departments (Physics and Astronomy, Chemistry and Chemical Biology, Materials Science and Engineering, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Chemical and Biochemical Engineering, Biomedical Engineering). In addition, there are over 50 visiting scientists, postdoctoral fellows and graduate students involved in various research projects.

The mission of the Laboratory for Surface Modification is to provide a focus for research in basic and applied studies of high technology surfaces and interfaces. Surface modification encompasses a broad spectrum of structural and chemical phenomena that occur on the surfaces of solids. Surface modification at the atomic level requires the overlap of many disciplines, such as physics, chemistry, materials science, and using these newly designed surfaces for technological applications involves several engineering efforts in electrical, chemical, biochemical and biomedical engineering.

The chemistry and physics of surfaces and interfaces are among the most challenging and exciting areas of condensed matter science. Moreover, advances in the technology of surface modification have a fundamental impact on multibillion dollar industries in such diverse fields as telecommunications, petroleum, superconductivity, computer science, and biotechnology. Surface modification also provides the scientific underpinnings of exciting new areas of nanoscience and nanotechnology.

As evidence of the multidisciplinary character of the LSM, laboratory members hold faculty appointments in several Rutgers University departments and graduate programs: Physics and Astronomy, Chemistry and Chemical Biology, Materials Science and Engineering, Electrical and Computer Engineering. Chemical and Biochemical Engineering, and Biomedical Engineering.

In support of the laboratory mission, strong industrial collaborations have been established with local high technology industries, including Bellcore, The Army Research Laboratory, Lucent Technologies (Bell Labs), IBM, Intel, Applied Materials, Dow Corning, Exxon. Members of the laboratory are also active participants in the NJ Center for Biomaterials (NJCBM) and the New Jersey Associated Institutions for Materials Sciences (AIMS), a joint venture involving Rutgers, Princeton, New Jersey Institute of Technology, Stevens Institute of Technology, UMDNJ, and David Sarnoff Research Center.

The major goals of the laboratory are:
What We Do
The field of surface science has grown so fast and become so diverse over the past few decades that even this simple question is hard to answer. This is a short introduction to what we do.

In brief, we study surfaces and interfaces. For the most part, we examine surfaces of solid materials (e.g. metals or semiconductors) and of condensed films as thin as one atomic layer. We also study gas molecules that are bonded to a surface or that react on the surface.

First and foremost, we are interested in scientific issues related to surfaces and interface formation: The variety of physical and chemical processes that occur on or at the surface of various materials can be quite amazing. We are also interested in applications of surface science to semiconductor devices, catalysis, and even to surface processes in outer space.

To the right is an example of what we are interested in: the (111) surface of a tungsten crystal, after it had been coated with a very thin film of palladium and heated to 800 degrees Kelvin — that's about 1000 degrees Fahrenheit. This picture was taken with a very powerful microscope — a scanning tunneling microscope — and dimensions are magnified by a factor of 1:1,000,000. Under this magnification the surface appears rough and bumpy because the thin palladium film makes the otherwise smooth tungsten surface unstable.

Why We Do It
Motivations for people to study surfaces are as varied as the field itself, and the most often quoted reason is economic: high technology industries depend on control of interfaces, and therefore rely very heavily on our knowledge about surfaces and interfaces. Surface science can be found everywhere: whether you manufacture semiconductor devices, or are facing issues of lubrication and corrosion, or trying to understand heterogeneous catalysis, or devising novel biosensors.

Surface science is situated at the crossroads of numerous disciplines. It is hard to imagine a more uplifting experience than, when at a conference, hundreds of researchers gather from around the world: chemists, physicists, engineers, biologists, mathematicians, all sharing a need to understand surface phenomena for widely different applications.

How We Do It
It isn't really surprising that the techniques we employ are also very diverse. Our research apparatus ranges from a desktop terminal to multi-million dollar synchrotron light sources the size of a football stadium. Some experimentalists investigate their samples in air, some under high pressures of various gases, some under the best vacuum conditions man can achieve on Earth. Some work at the temperature of liquid helium, others well above 2000oC.

Many surface science experiments are carried out in excellent vacuum - something we refer to as UHV (Ultra High Vacuum). UHV conditions are so important to most of our research that there is a separate webpage devoted to the description of UHV techniques. In this UHV environment where highly reactive surfaces can remain clean for many hours, a host of probes (photons, electrons, ions, atoms) are made to interact with the surface to measure specific properties (order, chemical nature, structure, conductivity) of surfaces.

Exploring other pages of this website will give you more details on exciting techniques such as Medium and High energy ion scattering, surface infrared spectroscopy, direct and inverse photoemission spectroscopy, scanning tunneling and atomic force microscopy. We have tried to keep these pages as easy to understand as possible. If you still have questions, don't hesitate to contact the professors or graduate students involved in the projects that interest you.