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Fundamentals of Surface and Nanoscale Science

Module PH2071

This module handbook serves to describe contents, learning outcome, methods and examination type as well as linking to current dates for courses and module examination in the respective sections.

Module version of WS 2021/2

There are historic module descriptions of this module. A module description is valid until replaced by a newer one.

Whether the module’s courses are offered during a specific semester is listed in the section Courses, Learning and Teaching Methods and Literature below.

available module versions
WS 2022/3WS 2021/2WS 2019/20WS 2018/9WS 2017/8WS 2010/1

Basic Information

PH2071 is a semester module in English or German language at Master’s level which is offered in winter semester.

This Module is included in the following catalogues within the study programs in physics.

  • Specific catalogue of special courses for condensed matter physics
  • Specific catalogue of special courses for Applied and Engineering Physics
  • Complementary catalogue of special courses for nuclear, particle, and astrophysics
  • Complementary catalogue of special courses for Biophysics

If not stated otherwise for export to a non-physics program the student workload is given in the following table.

Total workloadContact hoursCredits (ECTS)
150 h 45 h 5 CP

Responsible coordinator of the module PH2071 in the version of WS 2021/2 was Joachim Reichert.

Content, Learning Outcome and Preconditions


  • Surface structure analysis
    • 2D crystallography
    • Reciprocal & real space imaging
  • Electron spectroscopy
    • For surface chemical analysis
    • For electronic structure
  • Elementary processes at surfaces
    • Vibrational properties & excitations
    • Adsorption/Desorption
    • Surface diffusion
    • Surface chemical reactions
    • Magnetism at interfaces
    • Interaction with light
  • Self-assembly at surfaces
  • Thin film epitaxy
  • Atomic/molecular manipulation and quantum confinement
  • Electron transport in nanosized objects
  • Molecular electronics and spintronics

Learning Outcome

After successful completion of the module the students are able to:

  •  understand and describe several surface science concepts and techniques, including 2D-crystallography, elemental and chemical analysis at surfaces, electronic, vibrational and magnetic properties of surfaces, adsorbate bond formation, surface dynamical processes like diffusion, adsorption and desorption, and surface chemical reactions in heterogenous catalysis
  • identify the different kinds of nanoscale objects and nanostructured surfaces and discuss:
    1. their properties,
    2. their underlying fabrication schemes (including top-down and bottom-up approaches with emphasis on self-assembly & self-organized growth processes) and
    3. examples of their application in chemistry (catalysis) and electronics/spintronics.


While there are no strict requirements, previous exposure to quantum mechanics and thermal physics and the basic notions of atomic, molecular & condensed matter physics will be helpful.

Courses, Learning and Teaching Methods and Literature

Courses and Schedule

Learning and Teaching Methods

The lectures are thematically structured and a detailed script is given at the beginning of each lecture. Each lecture commences with a clear outline of the learning objectives. Concepts are linked to prior knowledge acquired both in the general course of study and within the topics covered in this module. The beamer is used for the lecture presentation, while important concepts are illustrated and highlighted on the blackboard. 

Handouts and course announcements are also communicated via the Moodle platform. 


Class room beamer presentation, blackboard work, lecture notes, question sheets, lab visits, supplementary literature.


  • K. Oura, V.G. Lifshits, A.A. Saranin, A.V. Zotov, M. Katayama "Surface Science", Springer, Berlin 2003; ISBN 3-540-00545-5; department library. (Comprehensive introduction to surface science; very good overview. Provides the base for the 'surface' part of the course.)
  • A. Zangwill "Physics at surfaces", Cambridge University Press 1988; Library of E20 and: B.18.K 117.– (Very good introductory textbook.)
  • H. Ibach "Physics of Surfaces and Interfaces", Springer, Berlin 2006. (Surface and interface phenomenal including electrochemistry; particularly recommendable chapters on surface vibrations, transport and growth processes, magnetism; experimental and theoretical aspects well balanced.)
  • H. Lüth "Surfaces and Interfaces of Solid Materials", Springer, Berlin 2001, Library of E20 and: B.18.K 151 (Introductory book on surface science with emphasis on semiconductors; very useful panels on experimental techniques.)
  • A. Groß "Theoretical Surface Science: A Microscopic Perspective", Springer, Berlin 2003 ISBN: 3-540-43903-X; library of E20 and department library. (Excellent overview on elementary surface processes and on theoretical concepts to deal with them; very recommendable also for experimentalists.)
  • F. Bechstedt "Principles of Surface Physics", Springer 2003, ISBN: 3-540-00635-4, B.18.K.80.2004 A 1 (Excellent overview on elementary surface processes and on theoretical concepts to deal with them; very recommendable also for experimentalists.)

Module Exam

Description of exams and course work

There will be an oral exam of 25 minutes duration. Therein the achievement of the competencies given in section learning outcome is tested exemplarily at least to the given cognition level using comprehension questions and sample calculations.

For example an assignment in the exam might be:

  • Describe chemisorption: the energy potential, the bond strength, the bond characteristics and give an example.
  • How are surface reconstructions and overlayer structures described?
  • Draw the energy diagram for a possible electron (de-)excitation within an atom.
  • Draw the Ewald sphere for a 3D crystal and a 2D crystal. What are the conditions for diffraction?

Participation in the exercise classes is strongly recommended since the exercises prepare for the problems of the exam and rehearse the specific competencies.

Exam Repetition

The exam may be repeated at the end of the semester. There is a possibility to take the exam in the following semester.

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