Graduate School of Molecules and Interfaces


In everyday life we are permanent in contact with a special type of interfaces, namely surfaces, such as the surface of textiles, paper, the surface of our computers and smart phones, wallpapers and car coatings etc. Virtually all of these surfaces represent surface modified supporting materials to fulfill two basic functions, the protection against corrosion and wear, and esthetic improvement by color, gloss and haptic properties. This is mainly achieved by organic coatings of metallic, ceramic or polymeric materials. In practice, this requires a detailed understanding of the interfacial properties between the coating systems and the supporting material. This imposes, however, in many cases significant challenges, for example, in cases where systems of different chemical and structural nature, as in the case of the metallic coating of industrial polymers mandatory for their function such as DVDs or car light reflectors, where a thin aluminum coating on macromolecular carrier is indispensable to provide the required optical reflectivity. However, due to the usually poor mutual adhesion of these systems special measures have to be taken to overcome this problem. In fact, this already needs an atomistic understanding of interaction of metal atoms with macromolecular surfaces.

Buried interfaces play a key role in metallic and ceramic materials. Their microscopic understanding can be considered as more matured than in the example above, since their structural properties are more uniform as is the type of chemical bonding, e.g. metallic bonding. The concept of using polycrystalline metallic systems rather that single crystalline materials, with precise control of the billions of interfaces between metallic grains in shape, orientation, size and chemistry, such as in alloys, has led to an incredible progress in high performance steels as well as corrosion- and high temperature stability. The performance of airplane engines and complex infrastructural systems such as bridges, skyscrapers are just a few prominent examples with entered our everyday life as a direct consequence of this detailed understanding. Surprisingly, it became evident during the past two decades that by shrinking the building blocks in polycrystals down to the nanometer scale, qualitatively completely new electronic and mechanic properties in nanocrystalline systems appear which were not observed before in the micrometer regime. Very recent developments here go towards fully amorphous systems, so called nanoglasses, exhibiting, for example, unexpected magnetic properties. Catalysts represent another technological important class of materials whose activity critically depend of the appropriate choice of atomic composition, size and shape control, and the ratio of the number of surface and bulk atoms.

The well-known examples above display the importance of being able to locally control interfaces at the molecular and atomic scale for the development of novel functional materials and stimuli-responsive systems. At the WWU-Münster chemists and physicist are working closely together since more than 15 years in the field of nanoscience addressing these questions. Building up on the knowledge in chemistry and nanophysics at the WWU in Münster as well as two excellently equipped research centers (CeNTech /SoN), including state of the art nanofabrication and testing tools as well as a strong theoretical center (CMTC), WWU is excellently prepared to commonly approach new and more far-reaching scientific pathways in the field of Molecules and Interfaces. A variety of cross-fertilizing aspects are to expected, ranging, for example, from basic questions of analogous properties in bio-interfaces and inorganic interfaces to nanoanalysis.