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A diary of some remarkable events in the Surface Physics group.

Saeed Rasouli joins the group

 Saeed Rasouli 2023-Nov-06 This fall the new funding period for the TU-D doctoral school is starting, and with it come the new students. First to join is Saeed Rasouli on the sub-project “Probing and manipulating atomic-scale defects on surfaces of 2D materials”, seen here trying to achieve this with noncontact atomic force microscope on a PtSe2 surface. Welcome!

European Reseacher's Night

The joint forces of TU Wien and Uni Wien presenting their research at the ERN 2023. From left to right: Ivonne Ventura Rosales, Moritz Eder, Stefan Uttenthaler, Alexander Imre, Florian Buchner, Moritz Zelenka, Martin Unzog, Carolin Faller, Marco Corrias and Michele Riva (kneeling). Not on the picture, but equalliy involved: Andrea Angeletti, Niraj Kushwaha, Lorenzo Celiberti, Luigi Ranalli, Michele Reticcioli, and Thomas Ruh. 2023-Sep-29

Together with our colleagues from the University of Vienna, we had a booth at this year's European Researcher's Night in Vienna at the University of Applied Arts, representing TACO and SCI-PHI. From 3 PM to 11:59 PM, we did experiments, explained methods, answered questions, and entertained curious visitors with science!

Erik Rheinfrank Wins Poster Prize at NCAFM 2023!

A visibly happy Erik receiving his well-deserved poster prize 2023-Sep-28

Keep'em coming! Erik Rheinfrank has won the poster prize at the 24th International Conference on Non-Contact Atomic Force Microscopy (NCAFM2023) in Singapore. Apart from fame and honor, there is some prize money involved: 200 Singapore dollars (~140€) for Erik. Just in time for his birthday a few days later!

Joint TACO-Nanocat Conference 2023 in Vienna

The attendees of the TACO 2023 conference on the terrace of TUtheSky - one of the best views over the city! 2023-Sep-24-27

In a joint effort by the subgroups of TACO and Nano-CATalysis, the 2023 TACO conference was hosted in TUtheSky in the centre of Vienna. With a program full of top notch speakers, we had a great time over the rooftops of Vienna with plenty of discussions, coffee, and picturesque posters. Thanks to everybody who made this conference a big success, lots of fun, and a great scientific experience!

Igor Sokolović Wins ÖPG Dissertation Prize

Igor Sokolović (third from the left) has won this year's ÖPG dissertation prize. 2023-Sep-05

We are proud to announce that Igor Sokolović has won one of this year's three ÖPG dissertation prizes for his PhD thesis "Complex oxide surfaces studied at the atomic scale with AFM/STM and DFT". Hats off, Igor! With the prize come several rewards: an invitation for a talk (went well with a diverse audience) and an award ceremony (Prof. Christian Teichert hands out the award as the president of the ÖPG) at this year's annual meeting held in Basel, Switzerland, a cash prize (spent with friends and colleagues on food and drinks), an award certificate (safe in a drawer), and an ÖPG-decorated mug: guess which one gets the most exposure!

David Kugler Joins the Group

David Kugler is ready for some exciting stuff at the low temperature apparatus. 2023-Sep-01

David Kugler, who had been working in our group as Erasmus student some months ago, has returned to do his PhD with us. Together with Jan Balajka, he will be working on the structure of metal oxide surfaces and their reactivity to water. Welcome to the team, David!

Surface Science for Quantum Computing

Christian Flasch (left) and Matthias Preidl (right) after their successful defenses with their proud supervisors Ullu and Margareta. 2023-Aug-23

Christian Flasch and Matthias Preidl did their masters theses at a company, where they applied surface science methods to improve technology for quantum computing. Their work was co- co-directed by Margareta Wagner, and both successfully defended their theses today. Congratulations!

Faith Has Joined the Group

Faith has arrived in the lab and is ready to go!. 2023-Aug-14

We are happy to welcome our new colleague Faith Lewis. Having finished her Master's degree in Chicago, she came all the way across the great lake to join the SAC crew. Welcome to the team, Faith!

VACOM Nachhaltigkeitspreis for Moritz!

We spared no effort for maximum knwoledge transfer. 2023-Jul-21

The German Vacuum Society has awarded Moritz the VACOM sustainability prize (Nachhaltigkeitspreis) for his PhD thesis on Alcohol Photocatalysis on Titania in UHV. As a research stimulus, it comes with 15.000€ earmarked prize money for equipment. The generous support is happily received. Nice!

KinderUni Workshop on Energy

We spared no effort for maximum knwoledge transfer. 2023-Jul-11

At this year's KinderUni, Alex, Stefan, Moritz and another Moritz from Ellen Backus' group at Uni Wien gave a workshop on energy for the kids. Needless to say, scientific principles are most adequately explained by hands-on experiments. It was a morning full of Tesla coils, lightning discharges, making ice cream from liquid nitrogen, and burning gummi bears, also documented here, here and here.

Group Barbecue at Donaulinsel

Margareta is now officially an associate professor! 2023-May-15

With the weather being much nicer than predicted, we enjoyed ourselves at one of the barbecue spots at the Donauinsel. After the group kebab and the group barbecue, what will the next exciting culinary excursion be…?

Margareta Becomes Assistant Professor!

Margareta is now officially an associate professor! 2023-May-8

We are more than happy to announce that Margareta Wagner has been appointed to assistant professor in our group. Congratulations to your well-earned position, Margareta!

Kebap Time is Quality Time

The legendary photographer D. Rath (front) is taking a picture of the group (back) 2023-May-4

As it is tradition, we officially celebrated the warm spring weather with a hearty Kebap from the Naschmarkt.

ICSOS Surface Structure Prize for Michael Schmid

Prof. Dr. Michael Schmid 2023-May-2

For his outstanding achievements in the development and application of methods to elucidate the structure of the surfaces of metal alloys, surface oxides, bulk oxides and single atom catalysts using scanning probe microscopies and complementary DFT and quantitative LEED methods, the 2023 ICSOS Surface Structure Prize will be awarded to Michael Schmid at this year’s ICSOS conference in Badersee. Judging from the list of previous prize winners, Michael has been admitted to the Hall of Fame of Surface Science. Congratulations, Michael!

Lena on Parental Leave


Last group Lunch for Lena (blue arrow). Middle: Alex (standing) is wishing her the best from our group, along with emotional as well as financial support.

Our treasured group member Lena Puntscher (née Haager) will temporarily leave our group as she is expecting a young daughter to see the light of day soon. We are looking forward to welcoming her back and saying hello to her firstborn child. All the best wishes to the Puntscher family!

Giada wins Peter Varga Poster Prize


Giada receiving the well-earned prize.

Some of us visit the famous Symposium on Surface Science (3S) conference which took place in Courmayeur, Italy. We learn much about on-surface synthesis and other latest news in our field, and enjoy outdoor discussions with colleagues. To top it off, Giada wins the Poster Prize that has been instigated in memory of Peter Varga. Congratulations, Giada!

Ulli awards the prizes for this year's Physikolympiade


From left to right: Alexander Friedrich (organizer), Saya Ahmad (district manager), the winners Luca Kummer, Donata Giulini, Elias Hummer, and Ulli Diebold.

In order to foster Austria's future scientists, Ulli Diebold awarded the prizes to this year's winners of the Viennese Physicist Olympics (”Physikolympiade Landeswettbewerb Wien”). Congratulations to the winners!

Marie Curie Fellowship for Moritz!


Moritz just received the good news.

Moritz (see picture) is visibly happy about the good news that his MSCA proposal for a prestigious European postdoctoral fellowship has been accepted. Going by the catchy acronym SCI-PHI, the EU will provide generous funding for two years of research with Gareth on Single-atom Catalysis in Photocatalytic Investigations. Congratulations!

Atomic details of muscovite mica

Atomic-scale details of muscovite mica cleaved in UHV.


Mica is a naturally occurring 2D mineral that has been around for ages in the scientific community. Its perfect cleavage planes have been exploited for numerous surface and interfacial studies. Despite the popularity of mica, some questions about the system still remain - for instance, what is the distribution of its surface K ions? In a recent paper in Nature Communications by Giada Franceschi et al., we show clear nc-AFM images of muscovite mica cleaved in UHV, which unveil the arrangement of its surface K ions. We rationalize the distribution with the help of DFT and Monte Carlo simulations. The work is part of our ERC project 'WatFun'. More details can be found at the TU press release, at idw-online.de, and at orf.at.

New funding for doctoral school TU-D

Graphene is the most famous 2D-material.


The Austrian Science Fund FWF has officially accepted the proposal TU-D, co-authored by Ulrike and Gareth. The FWF will continue to fund an interdisciplinary doctoral school with 2 mio. € at the TU Wien, which focuses on so-called two-dimensional materials - compounds which consist of a single atomic layer and bear immense potential for various technical applications.

Gareth elected as AVS fellow

Gareth Parkinson at the award ceremony, accompanied by AVS Trustee Lara Gamble and AVS President Timothy A. Gessert.


Gareth Parkinson has officially been elected as Fellow of the American Vacuum Society (AVS) at the AVS conference in Pittsburgh. Only 0.5% of AVS platinum members “who have made sustained and outstanding technical contributions in areas of interest to AVS” receive this prestigious award. Hats off, Gareth!

Hao Yin has joined our group

Hao Yin has arrived at his office desk and is looking forward to diving into the lab work.


Our new PostDoc Hao Yin has joined Gareth's single-atom catalysis group. As a Marie Curie Fellow with his project Adv-SAEC, he's up to some serious single-atom electrochemistry. We're happy to have you on board, Hao!

Sebastian's successful diploma defense

Dipl.-Ing. Sebastian Brandstetter in his home base, the RT STM lab.


Sebastian Brandstetter has successfully defended his diploma thesis today. Congratulations, Mr. Diplomingenieur!

Andrea is back!

Andrea Conti has returned


After the successful defense of his master's thesis, Andrea Conti has started his PhD thesis in our group. Happy to have you back, Andrea!

Microscopy Today Innovation Award for measuring the acidity of individual surface atoms!

The proud winners Ulrike, Margareta and MichaelThe microscopy award, nice and shiny


Margareta, Ulrike and Michael have won this year's Microscopy Today Innovation Award, together with Bernd Meyer and Martin Setvín. They invented the non-contact AFM technique ARPAS, which allows the atomically-resolved determination of proton affinity of surface atoms. Kudos to the winners!

Laurea for Andrea

Andrea is receiving his degree


Andrea Conti has successfully defended his master's thesis at Universita' degli studio di Milano. He will join us soon for his Ph.D. Congratulations!

Florian Kraushofer wins best dissertation 2022 from the Austrian Physical Society

Florian receiving his award at the ÖPG annual meeting in Leoben


Florian Kraushofer's PhD thesis was judged to be the best dissertation in physics produced in Austria during 2022 by the Austrian physical society (ÖPG). In recognition he received an invited talk at the ÖPG annual meeting, a fancy certificate, and a check for 1000 euros. Not bad!

Lena Puntscher wins best student presentation at the IVC meeting in Sapporo!

Lena pictured with her prize certificate after the presentation ceremony


Serial prizewinner Lena Puntscher was at it again in Japan earlier this month, winning the prize for best student presentation at the IVC (International Vaccum Congress) annual meeting in Sapporo. Congratulations Lena, but to be honest we have come to expect nothing less!

SAC: Everything you always wanted to know, yet were afraid to ask


Single-atom catalysis, or SAC for short, is one of the prime research areas in our surface physics group. Florian Kraushofer and Gareth Parkinson have now published a review article in Chemical Reviews that summarizes the current knowledge derived from well-characterized model systems.

Igor Wins Prize for Best Oral Presentation

2022-Sep-02 Prize ceremony at ECOSS-35

Igor Sokolović wins the Prize for Best Oral Presentation, for his talk entitled “Two distinct two-dimensional electron gases appearing at truly bulk-terminated, cleaved SrTiO3(001)” at the ECOSS 35, the European Conference on Surface Science in Luxembourg. Congrats, Igor, well done!

Electron Physics on Polar Surfaces


The special properties of polar oxide surfaces have been fascinating us for a while. A recent paper in the journal Nature Communications describes the many configurations electrons can assume on the as-cleaved surface of KTaO3, which is an intrinsically polar material. . The paper is based on a collaboration with our friends from Uni Wien, within our SFB TACO.

More detailed descriptions can be found here and here.

Lena Puntscher

2022-Jul Lena with her surface

We congratulate Lena, now with last name Puntscher, to her recent wedding. She immediately recognizes the special surface that the group created as our wedding gift.

Master Thesis Michael Brunthaler

2022-Jun-21 The LSMO crew

After successfully growing high-quality LSMO(001), identifying an interesting surface structure, writing up the results in his thesis, and surviving being grilled by three physics professors, Michael receives his well-deserved degree. Erik, Michele, and Giada were always happy to help, and now they are happy to congratulate our new graduate.

Gareth Parkinson is AVS Fellow

2022-Jun-08 AVS logo

Gareth Parkinson is elected to Fellowship in the AVS, the professional society for the Science and Technology of Materials, Interfaces, and Processing. Amongst many of the most esteemed heroes in our field, his name appears now in this list. Congratulations, Gareth - well deserved!

STO and Pizza

2022-Jun-02 Pizza with the Italians

Every good, in-depth discussion about surfaces should ideally start with a tasty lunch. Like this one, which lead to a lively exchange on SrTiO3 (or, short, STO) with our collaborators at Uni Wien in our TACO project.

An Italian Wedding

Much rice for much happiness


Giada Franceschi and Michele Riva tie the knot in a fabulous wedding close to Milan, Italy. We wish them all the happiness in the world!

Play Hard, Work Hard


We very much enjoy the IAP's Spring Fest, and celebrate the 'Fritz' we receive for our group's movie entry. The following day, we spring-clean the lab. With everyone pitching in, all vacuum parts are now neatly organized.

It's Spring. It's Kebabtime...

Spring 2022


… and, yet again, we enjoy the nice, warm weather and the food from Naschmarkt.

Medals for Surface Physics


As described on our institute's news page, the 3S'22 was a big success. Several group members gave well-received scientific contributions. And we proudly present the winners of the gold and silver medals of this year's giant slalom race: Current PhD student David Rath and former PhD student Roland Bliem, respectively. (Group leader Ulli also received a medal, albeit in the not-quite-so competitive category of 'senior females'.)

Moritz is Back!


Moritz Eder, who visited our labs a while ago, has finished his studies at TUM. He joins Gareth's Single-Atom Catalysis task force as a post-doc, enhancing our group with valuable chemistry expertise.

How to Create Flat Oxide Surfaces


Achieving flat morphologies on oxides is a key ingredient for thin film growth and for high-quality surface science experiments. In a recent paper in JVST, Giada Franceschi, Michele Riva et al. summarize our experience with a variety of oxide materials. We find that the surface reconstructions, and switching between reducing and oxidizing conditions, play a major role. The paper is featured in an AIP Scilight.

Erasmus 2022


We warmly welcome international students supported by the Erasmus program. As seen in the photo, they started to work on their respective projects right away. (A) Andrea Conti, Università degli Studi di Milano; (B) Dominik Hrůza, VUT Brno; (C) David Kugler, VUT Brno; (D) Vojta Mikerásek, VUT Brno in the office and (inset) in the lab.

Why and How Savitzky-Golay Filters Should be Replaced


Noisy data? Smoothing giving you artifacts? Doesn't work near the boundary of your data set? In a recent paper with this catchy title, Michael Schmid has analyzed common smoothing routines. Notably, he has created a new filter kernel based on a modified sync function (and appropriately named 'MS'). He provides the solution to your problems, as well as convenient plug-ins for all sorts computer codes.

Florian Kraushofer says good-bye


Florian Kraushofer has spent many productive years in our group and has become a friend to many of us. Now he is off to assume a post-doc position at TUM in Munich. We are sad to see him go but wish him the best in his new position.

Chunlei Wang joins us from Sweden

Chunlei in TPD lab

2021-Nov-20 . A new post-doc, Chunlei Wang joins the group. With experience from his Ph.D. at UTSC in China and post-doc at KTH in Sweden, he brings valuable expertise in catalysis. And, as you can see from this photo, he also does not shy away from UHV work. Welcome, Chunlei!

Lena Wins AVS Student Prize

The Platinum Award!


Congratulations to Lena Haager, who won the prize for best student presentation in the “Fundamental Discoveries in Heterogeneous Catalysis” focus session of AVS 67.

Luca's first day on the job....

One the way up and at the very top.


.. coincides with our annual group hike. We sweat our way up to Hochwechsel. What a splendid location to welcome to our group Luca Lezuo, a new Ph.D. student.

TACO shows its colors


Our new SFB project 'TACO' finally holds its first in-person meeting at TU Wien on September 27-28, 2021. We hear about first results and future plans from TACO members, and get inspired by outside speakers Bjørk Hammer (Arhus U. Denmark), O. Anatole von Lilienfeld (University of Vienna), and Stefan Freunthaler (IST Austria).

See also this press release by TU Wien

September was a good month!


Florian Kraushofer defends his Ph.D. thesis entitled “Iron Oxide Surfaces as Support Materials for Single Atom Catalysis”. The picture shows Florina in the RT Lab, where he spent many happy hours taking data, together with his advisor, Gareth Parkinson. Congratulations!

September 15 was a good day (2/2)

Igor and Maya


Igor Sokolović defends his Ph.D. thesis entitled “Complex oxide surfaces studied at the atomic scale with AFM/STM and DFT“. In the photo, you can see how happy he is, and how proud Maja is. Igor will continue working with Martin Setvin as a post-doc, supported by Martin's FWF project SUPER.

September 15 was a good day (1/2)



Alex Imre, who did his Bachelor work with us some time ago, re-joined the group as a Ph.D. student. He will be working on our ViPErLEED project, supported by SFB TACO. Welcome back, Alex!

Lena wins Best Poster Prize


Some of us attend the first real, life, in-person conference in a long time. It takes place in Prague and we learn a lot about clusters on and off surfaces. It is very nice to meet colleagues face-to-face. And, to top it all off, Lena Haager wins a Best Poster Prize!




It has been exactly three weeks since all group members had a chance to receive their first vaccination shot. According to Austria's 3G rule, we can finally celebrate all our achievements from this past year. Our outdoor group meeting lasts well into the starry night.

Build the Wall! Build the Wall!


In order to keep those voices out, we have been demanding a solid wall for a long time. Finally, it is being built!

Johanna is Joining


We welcome a new PhD student to the group: Johanna Hütner. Together with Jan Balajka, Johanna will work on our ERC project WatFun.

American Academy of Arts & Sciences


The American Academy of Arts and Sciences was founded in 1780. According to its webpage, the Academy “honors excellence and convenes leaders from every field of human endeavor…”. Amongst its newest members, elected in 2021, is Ulrike Diebold.

TACO: Science Manager


Stefan Uttenthaler joins as the Science Manager of our SFB TACO. Stefan uses his first lunch break to explore the culinary neighborhood of Freihaus and, indeed, finds the perfectly suitable take-out dish. Welcome to TU and to the surface physics group!

How to access the acidity of individual atoms


The Brønsted acidity is a fundamental chemical quantity, well-understood and tabulated for molecules. The surface physics group has now devised a novel method to determine the acidity of solid surfaces, atom-by-atom. Margareta Wagner et al. used the functionalized tip of a non-contact AFM how probe individual hydroxyls on an In2O3 surface. In conjunction with DFT-based modelling by Bernd Meyer from the FAU Erlangen, proton affinities can be assigned to individual surface atoms on oxides. The paper appeared in the journal Nature and was featured in Physics Today.

Link to TU Wien Press release Austrian Press Agency APA (in German) die Presse (in German)

Florian's Paper Selected for Cover of SAC Special Issue

2021-April-27 Florian Kraushofer's recent paper about Rh atoms on Fe2O3 has been selected for the cover of the Advanced Materials Interfaces “Single-Atom Catalysis” special issue in which it will appear. The paper can be found here

Analyzer Merry-Go-Round


With lots of help by many group members:

(A) New SPECS Phoibos 150 arrives. (B) SPECS Phoibos 100 moves to q+. (C) Old SPECS Phoibos 150 moves to Omega. (D) New SPECS Phoibos 150 moves on TPD machine.

Bakeout will commence, and hopefully, we will have spectra from all chambers real soon.

Stealth Post-doc Revealed: Dr. Paul Ryan


Paul Ryan has joined our group already last Fall. But now it is official: having received his PhD degree from Imperial College London, Paul can finally be employed as a post-doc by our university. He is working on our ERC project WatFun.

Review Article on Polarons in Materials

Polaron schematics


In our long-standing collaboration with Cesare Franchini's group at the University of Vienna, we have often found that polarons contribute to the surface properties of metal oxides in profound ways. In a recent review article, we have taken an even broader view. The article was published this month in Nature Review Materials; a read-only version can be accessed here.

When, out of the blue, you receive an email, informing you that you have won....

Manuel and his Diplomarbeit


… it could be spam. Or, it could be that you have been awarded the ÖPG Student Prize 2020. Which is what happened to Manuel Ulreich for his masters thesis entitled “Surface Science studies of Hydroformylation on a Model Single-Atom Catalyst”. Congratulations, Manuel, well-deserved!

Dr.techn. Matthias Müllner

Matthias in front of the Omega Chamber, where he has spent many hours preparing and characterizing samples. 2021-February-17

Matthias Müllner successfully defends his PhD dissertation entitled “Oxides in Aqueous Solution: Stability and Acitivity at the Atomic Scale”. This topic is at the interface between electrochemistry and surface science, and in his research, Matthias addressed scientific aspects of solving the energy problem. Congratulations, Matthias, and much success for your future endeavours!

Successful Recent Graduate: Zdenek Jakub Wins Marie Curie Individual Fellowship


Jan Cechal and Zdenek Jakub

This past June Zdenek Jakub received his PhD. After a few more months with us, he joined CEITEC in Brno as a post-doc. With his proposal entitled “Indirect Magnetic Interactions: Tuning by Electric Fields (IMAGINE)”, Zdenek has won a prestigious Marie Sklodowska Curie Individual Fellowship. In the photo you can see him in celebratory mood with his advisor at CEITEC, Jan Cechal. Congrats, Zdenek - we are very proud of you!

Gareth Parkinson Promoted to Full Professor


Gareth S. Parkinson

Gareth Parksinson joined our institute in 2010. Since then, he has done real well: he has published great scientific results (some of them featured on this webpage), he has acquired an FWF Start and and ERC Consolidator grant, and he has established himself as an international leader in the emerging field of 'single atom catalysis'. On top, he has been a wonderful advisor, teacher, and colleague. We are extremely happy that his achievements have now been honored with promotion to 'University Professor'. Congrats, Gareth - well deserved!

New Paper Published in Science


Paper celebrations in 2021

  • A new paper of ours was published in Science on Thursday. It contains a detailed study of several model “Single-Atom Catalyst” systems, and is the result of several years of work. Unfortunately we cannot celebrate in person so a Zoom session had to suffice for now.

*Article: Science 371, 375-379 (2021) DOI: 10.1126/science.abe5757

Job Opportunity: Science Manager for New SFB


  • For our newly-funded “Spezialforschungsbereich” we are looking to fill a post-doc position to mainly help with the administrative, financial, and outreach aspects of the new collaborative research project.

More details can be found here: job_ad_science_manager_sfb_taco.pdf.

Applications and inquiries should be directed to the coordinator, Ulrike Diebold, preferably before February 15, 2021.

New SFB Project


  • The Austrian Science Fund, FWF, funds our “Spezialforschungsbereich” (SFB) entitled „Taming Complexity in Materials Modeling (TACO)“. In this project, nine research groups will work towards obtaining a better fundamental understanding of complex, multi-component metal oxides. We will develop novel computational approaches based on machine learning, and benchmark computations with experiments that span environments form ultrahigh vacuum to ambient pressures and the aqueous phase, using samples ranging from single crystals to nanomaterials.

The project is coordinated by Ulrike Diebold from our institute, and Gareth Parkinson, Michele Riva, and Michael Schmid are members of the consortium.

TU Press release (in German)

Loschmidt Prize for Peter Lackner

Loschmidt Prize Certificate


At today's meeting of the Chemisch-Physikalische Gesellschaft (Chemical-Physical Society Vienna, CPG), a Learned Society founded 1869, Peter Lackner of the Surface Physics group will be awarded the Loschmidt Prize of the CPG for his PhD thesis Surface Science Studies on Zirconia Thin-Film Models Systems. With his PhD thesis, Peter has developed a model system to make the surfaces of ZrO2 accessible to surface science analysis methods and he could solve many open questions, e.g. why ZrO2-supported metal catalysts display the SMSI (strong metal-support interaction) effect. Congratulations!

Giada Competes for Nottingham Prize

Giada gives her talk


The Annual Physical Electronics Conference is the oldest meeting in surface science - it was held for the 80th time this year. As part of the conference, the top students in our field compete for the Nottingham prize. This year this was particularly tough – not only was the whole conference online, but already the selection of the runner-ups was highly selective. Giada Franceschi was amongst the four finalists, gave a fantastic talk on her PhD thesis results, and was shining in the Q&A session.

Ulrike Diebold Wins 2020 Gerhard Ertl Lecture Award

Prof. Gerhard Ertl


The Ertl Lecture Award was established in 2008 by the three Berlin universities (Humboldt University, Technical University and Free University) and the Fritz Haber Institute of the Max Planck Society to commemorate the awarding of the Nobel Prize to Gerhard Ertl in 2007. The prize includes a one-week research stay at the participating Berlin institutions and a festive evening lecture. This year the prize goes to Ulrike Diebold from our Institute.

The award ceremony and the lecture entitled “Oxide Surface Chemistry at the Atomic Scale” was streamed on Thursday, 10 December 2020.

A video can be viewed here.

Announcement by the Fritz-Haber-Institute Press release TU Wien

When Human and Computer Agree

The unexpected surface structure of IrO2

Iridium oxide is an excellent catalyst for electrochemical reactions, and used for the production of hydrogen from water by electrolysis. Members of the IAP surface physics group and the Technical University of Munich have discovered that its surfaces – where catalysis happens – are quite different from what scientists have previously thought. The atoms in the near-surface layers rearrange, stabilizing otherwise unfavorable surface orientations. These structures have been found by machine learning and perfectly agree with experimental findings. The results are published in Physical Review Letters.


Old and new. 2020-October-01

After a grand total of more than 26,400 coffees, our espresso machine is gracefully sent into retirement. It is replaced with the same model, just a bit more chic and sleek-looking. Our coffee experts calibrate it with the appropriate care and scientific accuracy, and the outcome is excellent: Note the crema!

Moritz from Munich and Ali from Mashhad

Ali and Moritz at work 2020-September-24

Two new people in our group: Moritz Eder, a PhD student at TU Munich, visits us for several months to learn a bit of STM. Ali Rafsanjani-Abbasi comes to us from Mashhad, Iran, and starts his PhD work with Gareth. We welcome them warmly and, as you can see in the picture, immediately put them to work.

Giada on Top of the World

Giada celebrates on top of TU Freihaus 2020-September-24

Giada Franceschi successfully defends her PhD dissertation entitled “Pulsed Laser Deposition of Functional Oxides with Atomic Scale Control”. Her thesis is brilliant, and she sparkled in her defense. Time for a celebration on top of TU Wien Freihaus. Congratulations!

Annual Group Hike

Hiking map and vie from the top 2020-September-8

On a glorious day with perfect weather for the outdoors, and under the competent leadership of our expert tour guide, Michael Schmid, we set out on our annual group hike. We conquer a respectable 1000 m in altitude, and we are rewarded with a great view and tasty Käsespätzle.

Creating a Group Picture During a Pandemic

Figure 1 2020-July-6

It has become a tradition to shoot a group photo at the 3rd floor of Freihaus, right across the Stephansdom, around July. This year we tried to honor not only this tradition but also social distancing rules. The figure shows how this involved: (A) Our professional photographer, David, moving his camera even further back than usual and (B) taking positions while staying safely away from each other. (C) Shows the - already edited - outcome after much running back and forth by David, who luckily shows considerable athletic in addition to artistic skills. The final photo, after some additional editing, can be admired by clicking on Group Members at the upper left of this page.

Prof. Martin Setvin, Charles University, Prague


After more than eight, highly successful years in the surface physics group of our institute, Martin Setvin follows a call to Charles University in Prague, where he assumes a professorship. He will be the head of the Thin Films Group at Departement of Surface and Plasma Physics. For the next two years he will still conduct some research at our institute, however, supported by his FWF grant SUPER.

We extend our warmest congratulations!

Lena Joins the Group

Lena Haager


Lena Haager, freshly graduated from the Faculty of Chemistry of TU, joins us as a PhD student. A warm welcome!

Dr. Zdenek Jakub

Zdenek during his online defense, in discussions with external examiner Prof. Friedrich Esch from TU Munich, and later, with drinks with advisor Gareth Parkinson (right) and co-advisor Ulrike Diebold


Zdenek Jakub defends his thesis in digital form. Luckily, the celebration afterwards takes place the old-fashioned way, with analog champagne. Congratulations, Zdenek, on a great dissertation and excellent defense!

Molecules: How to be Gentle

Oxygen configurations on TiO<sub>2</sub> and Martin Setvin (l) and Igor Sokolovic in the lab 2020-June-09

For some molecules it is quite challenging to take images without altering them. O2, for example, dissociates into two atoms when hit with the electrons that are used in traditional imaging techniques that provide the necessary resolution. Using non-contact AFM with and a tip with one single oxygen atom at the very end, the surface physics group has managed to provide undisturbed images of O2 adsorbed on TiO2. This system has been investigated by many research groups throughout the years, and the new images have resolved several mysteries. The results were published in the journal PNAS.

TU Wien press release (in German) Eureka Alert (in English) ORF News

Original Publication: I. Sokolovic et al., Resolving the adsorption of molecular O2 on the rutile TiO2(110)-(1×1) surface by non-contact atomic force microscopy, Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences (2020)

New PhD Student Erik Rheinfrank

Erik Rheinfrank


We welcome Erik Rheinfrank, who has joined to group as a new PhD student.

Back! (More...)

A tour through the labs


Next phase in opening the university. A tour through the labs shows more group members at work in the Freihaus, obeying social distancing rules.

Back! (Cautiously...)

Margareta with mask


The university is slowly opening up again, and we can start our experiments. Margareta, who has now re-joined our group with her Richter project, is back in the lab.

Second ERC Advanced Grant for Ulrike Diebold



Ulrike Diebold is awarded an ERC Grant. In her project “Water at Oxides: A Fundamental Approach” or, in short,WatFun, she and her team will develop novel techniques to investigate 'wet' oxide surfaces at the atomic level. The project relies heavily on the surface physics' group capability of combining liquid water with UHV-based measurements, in particular with non-contact AFM. The planned reserach also builds on results from her previous ERC Advanced Grant 'OxideSurfaces'.

ERC 2019 Advanced Grant Results TU press release (in German) ORF der standard

Zoom! Celebration

2020-March-20 Zoom

As is tradition in our group, we celebrate happy news. What, exactly, we celebrate today is embargoed for the time being. Also, we are under lock-down because of coronavirus. Neither of these things stops us - cheers!

3S*20 a Big Success


The IAP crew at 3S'20

Every two years, members of our institute organize the legendary Symposium on Surface Science 3S in St. Christoph am Arlberg, Austria. This year we are represented by a particularly large delegation. We discuss and present cutting edge science (including 2 lectures and 6 posters from the surface physics group) and we are having a great time skiing in the Austrian Alps.

Iris Has a Baby


  • Raphael has arrived!

Visiting Professor from Chile


Open Position in UHV ncAFM


  • With Martin Setvin scheduled to leave us in July, we are looking for a replacement (6-year position). For more info, see the ad. If you are possibly interested in applying, contact us directly.   email: [email address: lastname @ this server · enable javascript to see it] ⋅ Phone: +43-1-58801-13425


IWOX-12 Poster Prize to Giada

2020-Jan-09 Dario Stacchiola, Giada Franceschi and Zdenek Dohnalek

  • Several members of the surface physics group attend the International Workshop on Oxide Surfaces, IWOX-12 in Lake Placid, USA. Giada Franceschi receives the coveted poster prize. In the photo you can see her with the IWOX-12 organizers, Dario Stacchiola and Zdenek Donahlek. Well done, Giada!

Science: Board of Reviewing Editors

2020-Jan-01 Logo

Post-docs Give a Farewell Party

2019-Dec-18 At the party.

  • After spending a good year at the surface physics group, our friends from China are moving on to greener pastures. Zhizhang Wang will assume his new position at Xianmen University, and Hao Chen will start a post-doc at Berkeley. We learned a lot from them, and they also learned something from us - for example how to throw a party.

Merry Xmas

2019-Dec-11 The surface physics group & friends in the Kuppelsaal

  • At this year's IAP Xmas party, we take the opportunity to take a snapshot of our group & friends. We also take the opportunity to wish everyone who is reading this entry a Merry Xmas and a Happy New Year!

Loschmidt-Prize for Jan Balajka

2019-Dec-10 Jan Balajka is receiving Loschmidt Prize. Water drop is seen in the background.

  • Jan Balajka is one of two recipients of this year's Loschmidt Prize. This prize is awarded annually by the Austrian Chemical Physics Society CPG for an outstanding PhD thesis. Jan Balajka received his doctorate in 2018; his thesis is entitled “Interaction of Titanium Dioxide Surfaces with Liquid Water”. He is currently a post-doc at Cornell University, USA. Congratulations!

ERC Grant for Gareth Parkinson

2019-Dec-10 Gareth celebrating

Gareth Parkinson receives a prestigious 'Consolidator Grant' from the European Research Council, ERC for his project entitled “E-SAC: Evolving Single-Atom Catalysis: Fundamental Insights for Rational Design”. He will utilise the tools of surface science to design and investigate systems, where the size of catalytically active nanoclusters is pushed to the ultimate limit: single atoms. Gareth has been working on this general theme for several years, funded by an FWF START prize that he received in 2015. In E-SAC, Gareth and his team will significantly expand the types of materials and reactions studied. They will devise experiments that connect ultrahigh vacuum surface science with 'realistic' conditions and environments.

Press release TU Wien (in German)

Science Prize of the City of Vienna 2019 goes to Ulrike Diebold

2019-Dec-06 Diebold

Since 1947, the City of Vienna has been awarding its Science Prize. The list of winners includes renowned scientists such as Lise Meitner, Erwin Schrödinger, and Viktor E. Frankl. This year the prize goes to Prof. Ulrike Diebold from our Institute of Applied Physics (Press release of the city of Vienna (in German)). During the award ceremony at Vienna's city hall, she was introduced with a short video (in Viennese German).

Press release TU Wien

Recognition, Cash, and Career Advancement for Martin Setvin


For his outstanding habilitation thesis, Martin Setvin receives the 'Förderpreis des Kardinal Innitzer Studienfonds', which is awarded annually by the Archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Schönborn. Setvin is also a recent recipient of a prestigious GACR EXPRO grant, which supports excellence in fundamental research. His project “Ferroelectric Perovskites for Energy Conversion” was funded with 1.3 M Euros. He will use this money to build his research group when he assumes his professorship at Charles University in Prague.

Doctor Honoris Causa

Ulrike receives her honorary doctorate


Ulrike Diebold receives an honorary doctorate from the Brno University of Technology (VUT), in a ceremony as part of the celebrations of the university's 120th anniversary. The ties between TU Wien and VUT have become even stronger!

Press release (in Czech)

Jesus comes from Prague

Jesus in the lab


Jesus Ruben Lopez Redondo, a PhD student at the nanosurf lab in Prague, visits us for three months within the Erasmus+ program. He is working with Martin Setvin on the q+ machine.

Group Hike: Myrafälle


We go hiking. Under the expert guidance of Michael Schmid, we take the train and, after a little bit of uphill and downhill, enjoy a relaxed lunch before we conquer the Myra Falls in Lower Austria.

Hao: New Life, New Wife


Hao Chen, who spent the last year of his PhD studies with us, defends his thesis in Dalian. He will stay a few months in our group as a post-doc to wrap up his experiments on In2O3. Also, on his short trip back home to China he got married. Congratulations!

Academia Europaea


Ulrike Diebold is elected to membership in the Academia Europaea

New Masters

David, Nico, and Sebastian


This summer, three people got even more involved with the surface physics group: David Rath, who calculated the best configuration for an IRAS setup in his Masters thesis, is back to produce such a setup for real. Nico Resch starts his Masters thesis working with Gareth on single-atom-catalysis-related things. And Sebastian Brandstetter is excited to start a Masters thesis within an FFG-funded project joint with the Valtiner group and Berndorf Ges.m.b.H looking at stainless steel. (Well, not really: single crystals that have the composition of stainless steel, of course.)



  • Jan Hulva, aka Honza, defends his PhD thesis “Studies of Adsorptionon Magnetite (001) Using Molecular Beams”. Prof. Hajo Freund from the Fritz Haber Institute in Berlin acts as the external examiner. From Honza's extensive body of results we learn a lot about single atom catalysis - his thesis is truly something to be proud of. Congratulations!

Triple Defense!!!

Drs. Gloss, Pavelec, and Lackner


  • Jonas Gloss, Jiri Pavelec, and Peter Lackner successfully defend their PhD theses entitled, respectively, “Metastable iron-nickel thin films”, “Surface chemistry setup and adsorption of CO2 on Fe3O4(001)”, and “Surface science studies on zirconia thin-film model systems”. They shine during the defense, and even more so afterwards. Congratulations!

How to be precise

Editor's Choice TOC


  • Our paper "Pushing the detection of cation nonstoichiometry to the limit" by Michele Riva et al. appears in Physical Review Materials, where it is featured as Editor's Suggestion. We show how one can use STM to detect minute changes in the composition of complex oxide materials. By quantitatively evaluating surface structures of SrTiO3(110), and exploiting their exquisite sensitivity to stoichiometry changes, we can determine the composition of the deposited material with a sensitivity of 0.1%, at least ten times better than other customary techniques.

Grillplatz 11


  • For a change the weather is nice as we head out to our favorite BBQ place at Donauinsel. This time we are joined by our friends from Sweden, Edvin Lundgren and Lindsay Merte, who came to take advantage of the cool capabilities of our q+ AFM.

Spring Kebap


  • Spring time! Naschmarkt! Kebap! Park! Sunshine! Ice Cream!!!

Senior Scientist Michele Riva

Michele Riva


  • Michele Riva assumes his new duties as senior scientist. He will spearhead our efforts in the epitaxial growth of complex metal oxides, and support the surface physics group and IAP. Congratulations, Michele!

International Brain Circulation


  • Lots of coming and going in the surface physics group during the past few months: Jian Xu (a) returns to his home university in Chongqing, China. Zhiyu Zou (b) assumes a post-doc position at the University of Florida. Sebastian © takes off a week from his high-school studies to check out the lab live of physicists. Jakub Holobrádek (d) from TU Brno starts his Erasmus work with us, and so does Martin Štubian (e) and Radek Caesar (sorry, no picture available). Amy Brandt (f) from the University of South Carolina visits us for three months, and Manuel Ulreich (f) from Austria starts his Masters thesis work. It is great to welcome so many fresh faces, and we bid our outgoing colleagues a heartfelt farewell.

Polarons Catch Editor's Eye


The article: Reticcioli et al., Phys. Rev. Lett. 122, 016805 (2019)arXiv:1807.05859

Tableau Vivant Challenge

Our best effort 2018-Dec-20

  • Every year a different working group organizes the Institute's Christmas party. This year the Schütz biophysics group came up with a special task: To re-create a famous painting, in the fine tradition of tablau vivant. We have a lot of fun mimicking Lady Liberty, but our efforts are not good enough to win the coveted top prize.

Peter Varga 1946-2018

Peter_Varga 2018-Oct-27

  • With great sadness we announce that our colleague Peter Varga has passed on October 27, 2018. Peter Varga was the founder and longtime head of the Surface Physics Group at the Institute of Applied Physics (IAP), and he shaped it into one of world's leading centers of surface physics. Having retired as Professor at the TU Wien in 2011, he nevertheless remained an active member of our group and also kept contact with our friends in Brno where he had a “PostProf” position at CEITEC.

His funeral took place on Monday, November 5, 2018 in Maria Enzersdorf (Romantikerfriedhof, Grenzgasse 7). The Institute of Applied Physics mourns the loss of a long-time colleague and a good friend!

Peter Varga: Obituary, Nachruf, List of Publications.

Stijn Mertens Moves to Lancaster

2018-October Stijn Mertens

  • Stijn Mertens received a call as senior lecturer to the University of Lancaster, U.K., where he will be part of Energy Lancaster. He has spent 6 years at our institute. Amongst other activities, he built our electrochemistry lab, taught a popular course on electrochemical surface science, and conducted excellent research. We wish you all the best at your new position, Stijn!

Two New Group Members from China

2018-October Zhizhang WangHao Chen

  • This month, two new group members join us from China: Post-doc Zhizhang Wang will work with Martin Setvin on our q+ machine, and Hao Chen, a PhD student from the Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics is strengthening our surface chemistry expertise. Welcome!

Joint Project with CEITEC Brno


  • Together with CEITEC Brno we are involved in a so-called H2020 Twinning Project, called 'SINNCE' (Strenghtening Nanoscience and Nanotechnology Research at CEITEC). We are looking forward to a continuing and even more fruitful collaboration with our friends in Brno.

ÖPG Students' Award for Sabrina Mayr

2018-Sept-12 Sabrina Mayr (right) at the Awards Ceremony

  • At the Annual Meeting of the Austrian Physical Society (ÖPG), Sabrina Mayr was awarded the Students' Award for the best master thesis. Her thesis Studies of Few-Monolayer Zirconia Films and Metal Nucleation on Zirconia Surfaces was carried out in the Surface Physics Group. Amongst many other achievements, Sabrina obtained the by far best STM images of zirconia surfaces in the world. One paper based on her work is already in press, further ones will follow. Congratulations Sabrina!

FWF turns 50, and IAP members (and many friends) help celebrating

2018-Sept-8 The Materials Pavillion at FWF Be Open Festival

New Post-doc: Francesca Mirabella

2018-September-03 Francescha

Jan Balajka Defends his PhD Thesis

2018-August-31 Jan Balajka and Miquel Salmeron

  • Jan Balajka successfully defends his PhD thesis entitled “Interaction of Titanium Dioxide Surfaces with Liquid Water” with Prof. Miquel Salmeron from Berkeley acting as a most knowledgeable opponent. Jan passes with distinction, and they both pose for a picture at the UHV system 'Omega' that was Jan's sorrow and joy for the past few years. Congratulations!

The Joys of Attending Conferences

2018-August Happy at AirBnB

  • Our group has a strong showing at this year's ECOSS conference in Aarhus, Denmark. We present many talks, learn a lot of new science, make new friends, and enjoy each other's company.

The Importance of Trace Impurities and how to Avoid them

2018-Aug-24 The cleanest water drop comes from an icicle

  • Titanium dioxide (TiO2) is highly versatile material, used, e.g., for self-cleaning mirrors. When bringing one of its surfaces in contact with water, researchers around the world have observed a structure that was interpreted as ordering of water molecules or caused by carbon dioxide dissolved in the water. Jan Balajka and colleagues of the IAP surface physics group, together with Melissa Hines (Cornell University) could disprove these ideas. They have used what is probably the purest water drop on Earth, created from an icicle in ultrahigh vacuum (see photo). Surprisingly, the TiO2 surface structures turned out to come from trace impurities in the atmosphere such as formic acid, present in concentrations of only 1:1000000000! These results were published in the prestigeous journal Science.

The article in ScienceAbstract with access to full text
Perspective Article by Jeong Young Park
TU Press release in English and German
Media coverage: Der StandardORF ScienceSüddeutsche ZeitungDie WeltDie ZeitSternNew Scientistphys.orgwissenschaft.dechemie.deChemistry World, U.K.ChemEuropeLive Science, U.S.A.Index, HungaryNew Scientist, U.K.Sciences Avenir, FranceBBC Mundoc&en news

The Group Takes a Hike

2018-July-09 At Schneeberg

  • For our 5th Annual Group Outing we take public transport to Puchberg/Schneeberg and hike up to the Edelweisshütte. After a hearty lunch, some more hiking, and a relaxed coffee break, we return to Vienna: full of fresh air, tired, yet with a feeling of great accomplishment. Once again, Michael acted as a most fabulous tour guide.

Visit from UK: Paul

2018-June Paul and Gareth at the RT

  • Paul Ryan from Imperial College London and Diamond Light Source, UK, visits for a few months. He is working with Gareth on the single-atom catalysis project.

Building Bridges with Water Molecules

2018-June-27 Water, water everywhere!

  • Our paper about water adsorption on Fe3O4(001) has been published in PNAS. We are particularly proud of this work it was a very complex problem and it took the best of our capabilities in imaging, spectroscopy and theory to unravel. In the picture you see on of the structures formed in which water molecules adsorb on the surface Fe cations, with additional molecules bridging the gaps in a periodic fashion. Congratulations to all involved!

The paper can be found here: “Water agglomerates on Fe3O4(001)”PNAS (2018)

and the usual brilliant write up from Florian Aigner here: TU Webpage article. It was picked up by news media der Standard, apa

Dr. Daniel Halwidl


  • Daniel Halwidl successfully defends his PhD thesis entitled “Surface Science Investigations on Single-Crystalline Ruthenates”. In the photo he poses with dissertation advisor Ulrike Diebold, co-advisor Michael Schmid, and external examiner Prof. Niklas Nilius from the University of Oldenburg. Congratulations!

Habilitation Martin Setvin

2018-June-13 Dozent Dr. Martin Setvin

  • Martin Setvin successfully defends his habilitation thesis. Soon he will receive the 'venia legendi', the right to teach and to independently supervise bachelor, master, and PhD theses at TU Wien. Congratulations!


2018-May-09 Zhiyu with his signature sign

  • In order to achieve excellent ultrahigh vacuum, a bakeout of the vacuum chamber is required that can last up several days. Sometimes this makes the security personnel in our building nervous. To prevent them from raising alarm, and calling us – typically in the middle of the night on weekends – Zhiyu designs this most helpful sign.

Spring Kebap: Record Turnout

2018-April-12 Lunch in the park

  • Spring is finally here. Following our annual tradition, we take advantage of one of the first warm days to storm our favorite kebap stand at Naschmarkt. Everyone comes along to hang out at the park and eat.

Vibration Isolation Patent

2018-March-20 High-resolution microscope suspended for vibration isolation

  • The Surface Physics Group has patented a device for suspending a load in a vibration-insulated manner, designed for high-resolution microscopy and nanotechnology. While other similar instruments are usually placed in the basement of a building in a quiet environment, the low-temperature non-contact AFM/STM at the IAP/TU Wien suspended according to the invention delivers excellent performance in spite of its place in the 5th floor of a building in downtown Vienna! The patented vibration isolation system also features accurate levelling even under changing load distribution during operation.

For more information, see the TU press release (English, German), the Youtube movie, article in Der Standard or the Feature in Nature on high-performance microscopy

Visiting Professor from Chongqing, China


  • Professor Jian Xu (徐健) from the Dept. of Metallurgical Engineering, Chongqing University, joins our surface physics group. Jian will stay with us for one year to get his fingers dirty with UHV-based surface science experiments. A warm welcome!

Two Master Theses Defended

2018-March-19 Jakob and Sebastian with Giada and Michele

  • Jakob Hofinger and Sebastian Moser both pass their final exam. Their masters theses dealt with PLD growth of In2O3 and SrTiO3, respectively, and in both cases Michele and Giada were a big help.

Congratulations to Jakob, Sebastian, and the PLD team!

DPG - Post-deadline Talk

2018-March-14 Melissa Hines during her post-deadline talk

  • Melissa Hines comes all the way from the US to give a super-entertaining talk in front of a fully-packed auditorium during the post-deadline session at the DPG Meeting in Berlin.

DPG - German Physics Society Meeting 2018

2018-March-14 Room mates for a week

  • The surface physics group has a strong presence at this year's Spring Meeting of the DPG in Berlin. We report on our research results in 3 invited talks, 11 contributed talks, and 2 posters. In order to make the trip affordable, some of us bunk up in a big flat.

Gaede-Prize for Gareth Parkinson

2018-March-13 Gareth receives the Gaede Prize

  • Gareth Parkinson is awareded the Gaede Prize at the Spring Meeting of the German Physical Society in Berlin, Germany. This prize is given out annually to a young scientist who has made outstanding contributions to the field of vacuum science and technology.


Three Group Members Placed Amongst the Top Three

2018-March-01 The Poster Presentation Winners

  • As in previous years the poster introduction session was a special highlight at the Symposium of Surface Science, 3S'18. Based on the creative and entertaining way they presented their scientific results, Honza, Matthias, and Roland scored top points.


2018-February-12 Erasmus students from Brno

  • Each year we have the pleasure to host students from TU Brno/CEITEC. David Pokorný, Jakub Urbiš, Tomáš Krajňák, Martin Mikula, and Juraj Bobek have arrived in our lab. We very much look forward to working with our new friends.

Avoiding the Polar Catastrophe

The labyrinth is the way out 2018-Feb-02

* Ionic crystals - materials that are composed of positively and negatively charged ions - can be put into a highly unfavorable situation. When split in half along certain crystallographic directions the electrostatic energy diverges. To alleviate this so-called polar catastrophe, materials can react in a variety of ways. In a recent paper, Martin Setvin and co-workers from the Surface Physics group and from the University of Vienna show the surface of a KTaO3(001) single crystal after cleaving, heating, and exposure to water vapor. Six different mechanisms to compensate polarity are encountered. One of the most pretty solutions, a nano-labyrinth with 4-5 atom-wide walls, is shown in the image on the right.

The article in ScienceAbstract with access to full text
TU Press release in English and German
Media coverage: die PresseAPAWelt der Physik

"JSPS 141st Committee Award" for Peter Varga

Peter Varga 2017-December-4

* During the opening ceremony of the ALC'17 conference in Kauai/Hawaii today Peter Varga received the Award of the 141st Committee on Microbeam Analysis of the Japanese Society for the Promotion of Sciences (JSPS) for (quote) ”… his distinguished contribution on the clarification of surface phenomena by atomic level investigation and the development of novel functional materials.” Congratulations, Peter!

Mandana Joins the Group

2017-December-1 Hanging meniscus.

  • Mandana Azmi starts her appointment at IAP. She will pursue her PhD in electrochemical surface science under the guidance of Stijn Mertens.

Lighting Up the Library

2017-November/December Library Owl with

  • The TU library is celebrating its 30th anniversary. As part of the festivities, some stunning research results are projected onto the big owl that adorns the corner of the library building. The nice work by Stijn Mertens et al. on electrochemical switching of friction was chosen as one of the show cases.

Flora: Mysteries of Tantalate

2017-November-27 Flora with well-deserved flowers

  • Second successfully-defended Masters thesis this month: Flora Poelzleitner worked on “Polarity compensation on KTaO3(001) surfaces”. Her research results were included in our paper on the polar catastrophe, see the news entry above.

Sabrina: Caesar of Zirconia

2017-November-23 Peter, Sabrina, and Michael.

  • Sabrina Mayr successfully defends her Master's thesis on “Studies of Few-Monolayer Zirconia Films and Metal Nucleation on Zirconia Surfaces”. The group and her family celebrate the happy occasion and, in best Italian tradition, place the well-earned laurel wreath on her head.

Kardinal Innitzer Award for Gareth Parkinson

Steven, Christine, Gareth, and Elena Parkinson at the Palace of the Austrian Arch Bishop 2017-November-11

  • For his outstanding habilitation thesis, Gareth Parkinson is awarded the 'Förderpreis' of the Kardinal Innitzer Studienstiftung. The award ceremony took place at the formidable Episcopal Palace, located in the center of Vienna. Gareth's family came all the way from England to celebrate.

Video: Vibration Isolation for High-Resolution Microscopy

Vibration Isolation for the QPlus High-Resolution Scanning Probe Microscope 2017-October-24

  • How to achieve scanning probe microscopy with sub-picometer resolution in the 5th floor of a building in busy downtown Vienna? The Surface Physics Group has devised a solution by suspending the machine from a frame or the ceiling, with highly accurate levelling and a performance that rivals very expensive active vibration control systems, at much lower cost (patent pending). Watch the Youtube movie.

Visiting Professor from Cornell

2017-October-19 Prof. Melissa Hines

  • Prof. Melissa Hines of Cornell University, USA is staying with us this fall. Melissa is a renowned surface chemist and, amongst other things, she is interested in TiO2. We warmly welcome her and wish her - in fact, all of us - a productive stay.

Featuring Polarons: PRX and Nature Reviews

2017-October-15 Nc-AFM of 1x2

  • For a long time the (1×2) reconstruction of one of our favorite materials - rutile TiO2(110) - has puzzled us, and many of our colleagues world-wide. Based on Martin Setvin's beautiful STM/AFM results, our DFT friends at the University of Vienna have figured out that polarons are of essence. Our paper, which appeared in PRX earlier this month, has caught the eye of one of the editors of Nature Reviews.

How to Sputter-Deposit Ultrathin Films

2017-October-06 Sputter source glowing

  • In surface science it is essential to cleanly grow ultrathin films with a carefully-controlled thickness of less than one monolayer. For some materials (zirconium, say), this is difficult: Even though the melting point is exceedingly high, the vapor pressure is low. To circumvent this problem we have refined a UHV-compatible sputter deposition source. Read here how our source works and how well it performs.

Tenure for Gareth Parkinson

2017-September-01 Gareth and his research group

  • We are extremely pleased to learn that Gareth Parkinson has been promoted to Associate Professor with tenure. He will continue his highly-successful research into the surface science of heterogeneous catalysis together with his growing surface physics subgroup focused on iron oxides.

Erasmus Forever!

2017-July-31 Our Erasmus students at the group outing

  • This year our group hosted again three Erasmus students from TU Brno/CEITEC. As always, it was an extremely pleasant and productive experience for us: Michal Andrýsek worked on the growth of metastable ferromagnetic iron layers, and Tomáš Axman and Mojmír Komora designed and tested a high-pressure cell and a UHV-compatible liquid doser, respectively.

Habilitation for Stijn Mertens

2017-July-10 Habilitationsschrift

  • Stijn Mertens successfully defends his habilitation thesis. This is the last step towards receiving the venia legendi, the right to teach and to officially supervise graduate students at TU Wien. Congrats, Stijn!

Matthias Müllner Gets Married

2017-July-09 Matthias Wedding Band

  • We extend our warmest congratulations to Matthias and Tini, who tied the knot this weekend, and we wish them a great honeymoon trip together with their daughter Sophie.

Zhiyu Zou for Zirconia

2017-July-08 Zhiyu Zou

  • We welcome a new post-doc, Zhiyu Zou, to our group. Zhiyu comes from Trieste, where he worked on graphene-based systems. At TU Wien, he will strengthen our efforts to better understand the fundamental surface properties and chemistry of zirconia.

Group Outing

2017-July-04 Group Hike

  • Now it is seriously a tradition: July has arrived and we need to get out of the city for some fresh air and exercise. Our 4th Annual Group Outing brings us to Payerbach, where we hike in the beautiful mountain area of Lower Austria.

Promotion "sub auspiciis" for Roland Bliem

2017-May-16 Dr. Roland Bliem

  • Roland Bliem graduates with a "promotio sub auspiciis praesidentis rei publicae"”. This honour is based on top academic performance and is awarded to only a handful of PhD students in the whole country. With a GPA of 1.0 (the best grade on Austria's 5-point scale) from high school all the way through his studies at the university, Roland is one of the selected few. A big day for Roland, the institute, and the surface physics group.

TU press release (in German) der standard Tiroler Tageszeitung

Intrepid in Inclement Weather

2017-May-03 Wet at Donauinsel

  • We decide that a barbecue at Donauinsel might be a good idea. Martin Setvin reserves a Grillplatz and brings coal and his young family. It rains a bit. Nevertheless everyone comes out, and we are having a great time.

Florian: A Glorious Finish and A Fresh Start

2017-April-26 Gareth, Florian, and his significant other.

  • Florian Kraushofer successfully defends his Masters thesis, and he has already landed a job: on Monday he will start as a PhD student with Gareth.

Vienna March for Science

2017-April-22 The surface physics group at the March for Science

  • On April 22, people around the world gather to support science and to acknowledge the critical role it plays in each of our lives. Members of the surface physics group & friends do their share by joining the Vienna March for Science.

Igor Joins the Group

2017-April-4 Igor builds new sensors

  • Igor Sokolović has decided to pursue his PhD degree with us. He is supported by the doctoral programme Solids4Fun and will work with Martin Setvin on our new q+ AFM. Here you can see him getting his fingers dirty (well, not in the literal sense) while building sensors for the microscope.

Traditional Spring Kebap

 Kebap at Naschmarkt  Erasmus students trying new maneuvers


  • Earlier than usual, spring has arrived this year. Temperatures will reach 25°C here in Vienna on the weekend, so we hurry to eat our traditional spring kebap before summer arrives. Our Erasmus students from Brno university meanwhile relax while driving their new car.

Switching Oxygen Molecules On and Off

2017-March-14 The qPlus sensor with the tip at the left

  • The oxygen molecule O2 is chemically inert (except at high temperatures), but becomes reactive when an additional electron gets added. This process happens in biology, catalysis and can be also triggered by light on some surfaces. Martin Setvin of the Surface Physics Group managed to switch oxygen molecules adsorbed at a titanium dioxide surface back and forth between the non-reactive (neutral) and reactive (O2-) state and examine them in detail using non-contact atomic-force microscopy (nc-AFM) with the tiny tip of a so-called qPlus sensor (image). The results were published in the prestigious journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA (PNAS).

Publication in PNAS
TU Press Release in English and German
Media Coverage: APA · Der Standard · ORF · MyScience · Chemie.de

Tutorial Review on Surface Defects in Bulk Oxides

2017-March-03 photo

  • Some of us write a tutorial review on surface defects on bulk oxides, and how to characterize them with atomically-resolved Scanning Probe Microscopy. The article will be published in the journal Chem. Soc. Rev. Here you see a photo of the authors. (Taking the photo was a bit difficult, as co-author Margareta Wagner is spending a year at the Steinrück group in Erlangen, Nürnberg. With a little help from skype we manage nevertheless.)

TU Ball 2017

2017-January-26 TU Ball 2017

  • Every year our university celebrates its traditional ball at the Hofburg palace. The surface physics group participated enthusiastically, and met up with friends, colleagues, and visitors.

Degree for Iris

2017-January-18 Iris Dorner celebrates her degree

  • Today Iris Dorner finished her Masters studies. In her masters thesis, she helped us to improve our EC-STM, and here we help her celebrate her degree. Congratulations!

Research Funding is A-Comin'


Happy New Year!

  • In recent weeks, several of our research proposals were approved for funding: The group is part of the consortium of the H2020 project A-LEAF (“An Artifical Leaf: A Photo-electro-catalytic Cell From Earth-Abundant Materials for Sustainable Solar Production of CO2-based Chemicals and Fuels”). In a joint Belgian/Austrian Research Project, Stijn Mertens & friends will investigate the

“Boron nitride nanomesh for actuated self-assembly”, and the WWTF will fund our work on “Modeling and Design of Epitaxially Strained Nanoislands” as part of the 'Mathematics and..' initiative. We are set for a Happy New Year 2017!

Grp Goes Brno

2016-December-7 The Group in Brno

  • A division of TU surface physicists heads out to Brno to inspect the new lab facilities at CEITEC, discuss possible future collaborations, and taste local beers.

Oscar Defends his Dissertation

2016-October-21 Dr. Oscar Gamba with Gareth Parkinson

  • Oscar Gamba, who worked with Gareth for several years, receives his Ph.D. degree Thanks to his research, we now understand the surface chemistry of magnetite much better.

Habilitation Gareth Parkinson

Gareth Parkinson 2016-October-03

  • Gareth Parkinson successfully defends his habilitation and our institute gains a newly-minted 'Dozent'. Congratulations!

Bilge Returns to MIT

2016-August-31 Bilge and Michele

  • Prof. Bilge Yildiz is saying good bye with a nice farewell party. She has been visiting with us for a good (in fact: very good) year. We are sad to see her leave, but have many ideas for continued and future collaborations. Also, Roland will be joining her soon at MIT.

A Big Week for Roland

2016-July-29 Dr. Bliem and his new wife

  • Roland Bliem defends his PhD thesis entitled “Single Metal Adatoms at the Reconstructed Fe3O4(001) Surface”. His paper on Pt dimers appears in PNAS – see the next entry. Most importantly, he just got married!

We wish the beautiful couple much happiness and continued success.

The Pairing and Separation of Pt Atoms

2016-July-28 A Pt dimer at the Fe<sub>3</sub>O<sub>4</sub> surface

  • Sintering - the aggregation of catalytically active, metallic nanoparticles into bigger clumps - is one of the major causes of catalyst de-activation. This is particularly important in the emerging field of single-atom catalysis, the main research topic of the START project of Gareth Parkinson. A detailed STM and DFT study, mainly conducted by Roland Bliem, and published in PNAS, shows how single Pt atoms on the Fe3O4(001) surface are made mobile by CO, and how they merge into bigger clusters. Interestingly, the smallest cluster, a Pt dimer, is stabilized by the CO molecules. When the sample is heated, and the CO desorbs, and the two Pt atoms separate again.

Original Publication
TU press release · Der Standard · Tiroler Tageszeitung

Zdenek Jakub

2016-July-16 Zdenek

  • Zdenek Jakub joins the group as new a PhD student. He is no stranger to us, though: Zdenek studied at the TU Brno and already worked with us as an Erasmus student and during his Masters thesis. We are very happy that he joined us now officially!

Making it Stick on the Cover of Nature


  • The article "Switching stiction and adhesion of a liquid on a solid" by Stijn Mertens et al. is featured on this week's cover of Nature Magazine. The work describes dynamic contact angle measurements of a single drop of 0.1 M HClO4 on a single layer of BN supported on Rh(111). Friction can be changed reversibly by applying an appropriate electrochemical potential that leads to the intercalation of H between BN and the Rh.

The Group Bikes

2016-June-21 In Illmitz (Photo: Daniel Halwidl)

  • This year, our annual group outing brings us to the beautiful area around Neusiedlersee. We bike a lot (some of us even more than others), quench the resulting thirst, taste local foods, hang out in the shade, and a few brave people even go swimming in the lake. Overall, everyone was having a good time.

Christian Doppler Award for Roland Bliem

2016-June-17 LR Martina Berthold, Daniel Rettenwander, Roland Bliem (http://service.salzburg.gv.at/lkorrj/Index?cmd=detail_ind&nachrid=56686)

  • Roland Bliem, a PhD student in our group, has received the Christian-Doppler-Preis 2015 in the category Physics for his work on metal adsorption on the magnetite (001) surface. The Christian-Doppler-Preis is the science award of Roland's home province Salzburg, awarded biennially to researchers under 40 years of age. It is named after the famous physicist Christian Doppler who was born in Salzburg in 1803.

Salzburger Nachrichten
Aktuelles TU Wien

Dr. Stefan Gerhold

2016-June-10 Wolf Widdra, Stefan Gerhold and Ulrike Diebold

* Stefan Gerhold successfully defends his PhD thesis entitled “Surface Reactivity and Growth of Strontium Titanate (110)”. Afterwards he celebrates with examiner Prof. Wolf Widdra, Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg, and advisor Ulrike Diebold.


Tech Martin, Martin Jr., and Czech Martin 2016-May-16

  • Martin Calkovsky (center) from Brno University of Technology joins us as an Erasmus student for one semester. In order to tell him apart from 'Tech Martin' (left) and 'Czech Martin' (right) we decide to affectionately call him 'Martin Jr.'

Visiting Prof Picks Up Local Traditions

Bilge serves champagne 2016-May-10

  • Bilge Yildiz, our visiting professor, has learned that her latest research results have been accepted for publication in Nature Materials. As is customary in our group, this happy news deserves some serious celebration. Abhorred by the idea of warm champagne, we are quick (perhaps a bit too quick) to help out with a little lN2. The resulting, somewhat unorthodox, state of matter of the celebratory beverage does not prevent us from partying on, with Bilge's group partaking per skype.

PRL Features 30 Years of STM (and we made the list)


Jake is Done

Jake defends his thesis 2016-April-22

  • Jong Il Jake Choi successfully defends his PhD thesis entitled “Studies of Zirconia Surfaces On the Atomic Scale”. Congratulations, Dr. Choi!

Clusters, Clusters, Everywhere...

TOC 2016-April-18

Spring has Sprung

Kepab at Naschmarkt 2016-April-5

  • First nice day of the year. Following our tradition we venture out to Naschmarkt, where we greet the season with a kebap lunch.

Valuable Addition from Italy

Giada transferring a sample 2016-March-14

  • Giada Franceschi, a physics student from Polimi in Milano joins us for a 6 months. She is working on her Masters thesis, performing growth and surface experiments using our Laser MBE.

Martin Setvin: Ertl Award Finalist

DPG Spring Meeting 2016-March

  • The surface physics group shows a strong presence at this year's Spring Meeting of the German Physics Society in Regensburg, Germany. Most prominently, Martin Setvin is selected as a finalist for the Gerhard Ertl Young Investigator Award, and gives a brilliant talk summarizing his research on fundamental photocatalytic processes. Well done, Martin!

Laser MBE has Arrived

PLD, STM and RHEEd 2016-March

  • The first paper reporting results from our Laser MBE setup will appear soon: Stefan Gerhold et al., “Adjusting Island Density and Morphology of the SrTiO3(110)-(4×1) Surface: Pulsed Laser Deposition Combined with Scanning Tunneling Microscopy” shows what happens during the very initial stages of homoepitaxial growth. Our new toy works well and more exciting results are in the works. Stay posted!

More on Fe3O4

Burgers and Beer 2016-March

  • The manuscript “Fe3O4(110)-(1×3) Revisited: Periodic (111) Nano-Facets” by Gareth Parkinson et al. will appear as a Letter in the journal Surface Science. We celebrate with beer and 'burgers.

Collaborations are Paying Off


  • We happily report that four manuscripts have been accepted recently. Each paper has resulted from an extended collaboration. The one entitled “Interplay between steps and oxygen vacancies on curved TiO2(110)” by L. Alejandro Miccio et al., will appear in the journal Nanoletters. Former Post-doc Zhiming Wang is the first author of “Itinerant polaronic carriers in a SrTiO3-based two-dimensional electron gas”, to appear in Nature Materials, and of “Transition from Tetrahedral to Octahedral Coordination for High TiO2 Coverages of the (110) Surface of Strontium Titanate”, which is accepted for publication in Nanoletters. The group of Juan de la Figuera was leading the collaboration on “Co on Fe3O4(001): Towards precise control of surface properties”, published in The Journal of Chemical Physics. Congratulations to all co-authors!

Workshop Celebration

Workshop celebration 2016-February-29

  • Our excellent technicians help Michael with realizing his ingenious ideas. We warmly thank Rainer, Martin, Herbert, and Marie, and we eat lots of cake.

Oleg Gives Pizza Talk

Oleg talks about his university 2016-February-19

  • Our visitor from the prestigious Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, Oleg Feya, gives one of our pizza talks. He entertains us with stories about the founding fathers of his university, and explains how the program package USPEX can be used to predict structures.

TU Ball

The dancing part of the surface physics group 2016-January-28

  • Each year our university celebrates its traditional ball in the fabulous Hofburg Palace. Some of us dress up in our finest and go out for a few elegant rounds of Viennese waltz. We meet up and, after a while, we also spot Jiri and his dancing partner prancing through the halls.

How many physicists does it take...

Hard at work Physicists adsorbed on the sofas. 2016-January-26

  • … to assemble an Ikea sofa?

Zbynek Novotny receives Loschmidt Prize

Zybnek Novotny (4th from left 2016-January-19

  • Dr. Zbynek Novotny is one of two recipients of this year's Loschmidt Prize. This prize is awarded annually by the Austrian Chemical Physics Society for an outstanding PhD thesis. Zbynek received his doctorate in 2013 under the guidance of Prof. Ulrike Diebold; his thesis is entitled “The Fe3O4 Surface as an Adsorption Template”. He is currently a post-doc the Pacific Northwest National Lab in Washington State, U.S. Congratulations, Z!

TU Webnews (in German)

Archive of Previous Surface Physics News (2006-2015)

surface/news/index.txt · Last modified: 2023-11-10 12:49 by Igor Sokolovic