With this award from the Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) program and the Division of Materials Research (DMR), the University of Virginia (UVa) will acquire an X-Ray Photoelectron Spectrometer (XPS) with integrated sample preparation chambers. The instrument will be used to probe and understand changes in material surfaces during chemical reactions. XPS quantitatively determines the elemental/chemical composition, empirical formula, and electronic state of elements within materials. The data from this analytical technique will be used to explore evolving chemistry during surface reactions relevant for catalysis, weathering, and advanced material systems. This knowledge will impact our understanding of catalysis, astrochemistry, geochemistry, and materials stability for use in extremely corrosive or high temperature reactive environments. These scientific endeavors will impact such diverse topics as synthesis of fuels and chemicals, our understanding of the solar system, management of fracking, and development of improved materials for corrosion and oxidation resistance. The award will also enhance the education and training of students. A multi-level education plan will introduce the fundamentals of XPS and its applications in courses at both the undergraduate and graduate levels at the University of Virginia. A web-based lecture series on XPS will be developed which can be integrated into courses at other colleges and universities. Outreach activities will involve middle school, high school, and community college students in hands-on XPS activities. The instrument will also be used throughout the Charlottesville region for research and teaching collaborations with surrounding industries, colleges and universities through the UVa "XPS-Hub".
The instrument will enhance research across disciplines, especially in areas such as (a) understanding atomic scale mechanisms during oxide formation; (b) tailoring catalyst surfaces to promote cascade reactions for synthesis of chemicals; (c) understanding hydrocarbon bond-breaking for design of high throughput alloy catalysts; (d) investigating aqueous alterations in minerals representative of asteroids, meteorites, and lunar soils; (e) studying the chemical formation of organic molecular species on mineral substrates of importance for understanding the origin of life in the solar system; (f) clarification of carbonation reactions to diminish risks associated with hydraulic fracturing; (g) investigating preferential oxidation or volatilization of multi-component material systems for improved stability at high temperatures; (h) controlling surface microstructural and chemical heterogeneity to improve aqueous corrosion resistance; and (i) developing laser-driven surface modification methods for advanced manufacturing of high-performance metal alloys.