The field of research in the SSL is experimental solid surface science. The laboratory started its activity in 1991 as a research group at the Department of Chemical Engineering, U. Patras ( DChe/UP ), mainly engaged in fundamental research. Its activities expanded with additional financial, technical and administrative support from the Institute of Chemical Engineering and High Temperature Chemical Processes - Foundation for Research and Technology, Hellas ( FORTH/ICE-HT ), with which there still exists an occasional collaboration involving the surface characterization group there. In 2002 SSL was officially established as a distinct Research Laboratory at DChe/UP and since then it places also emphasis on applied research and surface analytical services to other public and private organizations as well as to the industry. Between 2006 and 2010, SSL (UPatras) was a partner in the EU-funded project ANNA ( ANNA ), which aimed at the development of a European Integrated Multi-site Laboratory Facility for Nano- and Micro-Electronics Analysis. In the frame of ANNA, SSL was Accredited according to ISO17025:2005 for surfase analysis using X-Ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy (XPS) by the relevant Greek National Authority, ESYD (Certificate No. 660 , 12 March 2010, suspended on SSL’s request from November 2016 on).
The central theme of the research in the SSL is the use of a variety of surface analysis and characterization techniques in order to determine the structure, composition and electronic properties of the outermost atomic layers of solid materials exposed to ultra-high-vacuum or controlled gaseous atmospheres and correlate them with the material behavior in various processes. Surface and interface analysis is of primary importance in both fundamental and applied research in the field of Material Science and Technology. Solid surfaces and interfaces are the place where many processes of great scientific and technological interest occur, such as thin film nucleation and growth, reactions at metal semiconductor interfaces, heterogeneous catalysis, thermionic emission, solar energy conversion, crystal growth, grain boundary impurity segregation, brittle fracture and corrosion, polymer and biomatter interaction with surfaces, interfacial adhesion in composites. Outstanding demonstration of the significance of modern Surface Chemistry research in technological areas such as those described above is the 2007 Nobel Prize for Chemistry, which was awarded to Prof. Gerhard Ertl (Fritz-Haber Institute of the Max-Planck Society in Berlin) for his groundbreaking studies of chemical processes on solid surfaces.
A number of surface sensitive techniques, including X-ray and ultra-violet photoelectron and Auger electron spectroscopies (XPS/XAES, UPS), Auger Electron and Electron Energy Loss Spectroscopy (AES, EELS), Ion Scattering Spectroscopy (ISS), work function measurement (WF) and Low-energy electron diffraction (LEED), as well as traditional mass spectrometric techniques like temperature programmed desorption (TPD) are available in the SSL. In addition, there has been occasional access to synchrotron radiation facilities, in which high-resolution photoelectron spectroscopy (SRPES) and additional techniques were implemented, including near-edge and extended X-ray absorption fine structure analysis (NEXAFS/ SEXAFS/ EXAFS). Most surface sensitive techniques used at the SSL are based on the physical interaction of atoms in the first few atomic layers of the solid with electromagnetic radiation , electron or ion beams and the subsequent angle and energy dependent analysis of electrons or ions emitted from the surface. Low energy (less than about 1000 eV) electrons can travel only limited distances ( of the order of nanometers) in solids without losing energy, hence they offer themselves as surface specific probes. Working with surfaces having chemical composition controlled at the atomic level and with electrons or ions as probes, requires the use of ultra-high-vacuum ( in the 10-10 mbar range ) environment to carry out the experiments. This is a demanding and costly enterprise, which as a rule makes necessary the use of expensive equipment, clustered around an ultra-high-vacuum chamber, on a time-share basis by independently or collaboratively working researchers.