Surface Chemistry

Surface Chemistry: a branch of chemistry that deals with the understanding and manipulation of physical properties and chemical nature of various surfaces. Surface chemistry involves the interaction between liquids and a surface or gases and a surface, and is important for the chemical industry as it helps us to understand many important issues that effect out everyday life, for example, why iron rusts, how the automotive catalytic converter works, and how we can produce highly adherent, durable, and low VOC (volatile organic compound) paints and coatings.

Many chemical reactions that occur industrially involve surfaces. Surface chemistry has been around since the time when Nature was busy in putting together the simple building blocks that were eventually assembled into the the formation of the most basic unit of life, the cell. From this perspective, surface chemistry plays a substantial role in the natural selection of chemistry, and in the survival of some of the most primitive forms of life.

The Nobel Prize in Chemistry for 2007 is awarded for groundbreaking studies in surface chemistry to Gerhard Ertl (Fritz-Haber-Institut der Max-Planck-Gesellschaft, Berlin, Germany). This science is important for the chemical industry and can help us to understand such varied processes as why iron rusts, how fuel cells function and how the catalysts in our cars work.

Colloidal chemistry is an industrially important part of surface chemistry; the fruits of this particular branch can be found in all types of household cleaners, medicines in the form of emulsions, drilling fluids, liquid crystal display systems (LCD’s), as well as paints and coatings. A colloidal suspension is a solid / particulate / other liquid that remains evenly dispersed in a liquid without dissolving. Common examples of colloidal solutions include milk, shampoos, and laundry and dish detergents. Colloidal chemistry has been around since ancient times (soap making was common in many ancient and can be traced back near 2800 BC), and pops up in many places throughout history as various cultures became proficient in the use of plant extracts and suspensions for medicines and colourful dyes.