Putting surfaces under scrutiny

mass-spectrometerFrom soap bubbles to catalytic converters, the nature of interactions on a  surface are vital in huge range of structures and processes.

The equipment for Metastable Induced Electroscopy Spectrometry (MIES) which recently arrived at Flinders University will illuminate the fundamentals of surface science by providing new information about the chemical and electronic structure of surfaces.

“There are a lot of things that are still not understood about how surfaces are composed, how they interact with gas and how they interact with liquids,” said Flinders physicist Dr Gunther Andersson.

Dr Andersson said the analytical ability of MIES is also vital to understanding a broad range of technical applications that employ surface modification.

“We are looking, for example, into organic electronics – photo-voltaic devices and Light Emitting Diodes – as well as liquid surfaces and interfaces, modification of polymers and adsorption at surfaces,” he said.

Custom-made in Germany, the equipment’s design and specifications were the result of 12 months work by Dr Andersson and his team in the School of Chemical and Physical Sciences at Flinders.

Dr Andersson said the equipment’s ability to analyse surfaces is limited only by the ability of samples to be handled in a vacuum, while its extreme sensitivity enables analysis down to the level of differing responses caused by the way an individual molecule is facing.

Funded by the three South Australian universities, Monash University and the University of Sydney, the MIES equipment will be used in research projects based at all five institutions.

“The machine can investigate a very broad range of surfaces – there are not many samples we can’t investigate,” Dr Andersson said.

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