The results, which could be of importance for a variety of applications, have been published in the current issue of Science Magazine.
“A scanning tunneling microscope image of the surface of titanium dioxide with different forms of oxygen. The higher, white peaks are oxygen molecules that are sitting on the surface, the smaller double peak in the foreground is an oxygen molecule that is already embedded,“
Copyright: TU Vienna
Titanium dioxide is an inexpensive, yet versatile material. It is used as a pigment in wall paint, as a biocompatible coating in medical implants, as a catalyst in the chemical industry and as UV protection in sunscreen. When applied as a thin coating, it can keep all sorts of surfaces sparkling clean. The use of titanium oxide in the electronics industry is currently being investigated. Fundamental to all these properties could be the atomic properties discovered by Ulrike Diebold from the Institute of Applied Physics at TU Vienna and Annabella Selloni from the Frick Laboratory at Princeton and their teams.
Oxygen latches on
Diebold’s actual specialism is the physical and chemical properties of surfaces. “The surfaces of materials pose interesting fundamental questions, but are also important for applications”, explains the physicist. The surface of titanium dioxide, for example, interacts with oxygen from the air. How this happens at the atomic level has now been shown in Vienna. Martin Setvin from Diebold’s team took pictures of this surface with a scanning tunneling microscope. In this method, a fine metal tip is held extremely close to a surface, without actually touching it. A voltage is applied between the tip and the sample, which creates what is known as a tunneling current. This current is measured and displayed as an image.Atomic vacancies pulled upwards
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