Regarding my university education, I am a mineralogist and materials scientist. Therefore, naturally, the subject of my research is usually the solid state of matter. In this huge field, my particular interest lies in the properties of the surfaces of solids. The surface of a substance is especially interesting, since here is where the material interacts with its surroundings: here it will be decided whether a beam of light is reflected, refracted, or absorbed, this is where a chemical reaction will take place, here are the relevant properties that govern the characteristics of a tribological system, to name but a few examples.
The examination of the properties of surfaces is a very useful tool for basically every science that deals with solid materials. In my case, the fields that I find to be intriguing subjects of surface investigations are manifold, but might be divided into three classes:
1.) Geological materials:
A very powerful tool for remote sensing is the use of reflectance spectroscopy, which can yield important information regarding the chemistry, mineralogy, and texture of a planetary target. The surface properties of the material that reflects the light of a planet have a large influence on the appearance of the spectra. A thorough understanding of this influence, based on laboratory investigations, is a prerequisite for geologically correct interpretations of remotely acquired spectra.
Biomaterials are all those materials that are either temporarily or permanently introduced into the human body. One of the premier aspects to be considered before implanting a device into a host organism is a prediction of the interaction between the biomaterial and the surrounding tissue, which is massively influenced by surface effects.
3.) Engineering materials:
Regarding engineering aspects of materials, the focus of my interest have been electrical, optical, and mechanical properties. Surface and interface effects play a major role in the functioning and characterization of a large variety of technically important materials, such as solar cells, varistors, or solid lubricants.
Apart from the simple characterization of surface properties (using techniques such as electron microscopy, atomic force microscopy, or contact stylus roughness measurements), I am particularly intrigued by the possibility to actively influence these properties. A very effective way to do this is the use of coating techniques, such as chemical vapor deposition or thermal coating.