Course syllabus


TIF120 / FIM550 TIF120 / FIM550 Surface and nanophysics lp1 HT20 (7.5 hp)

Course is offered by the Department of Physics

Course organization and general information

The course is based on a series of lectures given by a number of topical experts that cover different key theoretical and experimental aspects aspects  of surface and nanophysics, a project work that is presented in a written report and orally at a minisyposium, and on two compulsory 2-hour labs on the topics of surface science and nanoplasmonics, for which a lab report has to be written individually. Furthermore, please note the following:

  • The  introductory lecture takes place on Monday, August 30st, at 10:00 - 11:45.
  • If you are a GU student registered for the course please contact Christoph Langhammer at: before course start.
  • If you have any question about the course or the registration for it, please contact Christoph Langhammer before course start.
  • Due to the still ongoing Covid-19 pandemic all the lectures will be held digitally on Zoom, for which the links will be distributed by the respective lecturers prior to each lecture via Canvas. The labs will be on site, and you will be allowed to execute the project works in groups of two. We will decide with short notice if the project work minisymposium will take place digitally or IRL.

Teacher contact details

Christoph Langhammer:
Timur Shegai
Christoph Langhammer
Timur Shegai:
Eva Olsson:
Per Hyldgaard:
Anders Hellman:
Lab supervisors
Christopher Tiburski
Adriana Canales Ramos

Aims of the course

  • To provide the student a concept-oriented introduction to the field of surface physics and nanophysics with particular emphasis on (i) experimental techniques for characterization of surfaces and nanostructures, (ii) reactions on flat surfaces and nanoparticles, (iii) nanofabrication and colloidal synthesis and (vi) nanoplasmonics and quantum photonics.
  • To familiarize the student with central unifying concepts and experimental, as well as theoretical, tools needed for understanding the properties of surfaces and nanoparticles.
  • To highlight the importance of symbiosis between experimental and theoretical approaches in the surface and nanophysics area.
  • To introduce the key physical concepts of plasmonic excitations at surfaces and in nanostructures, as well as give an overview of their applications in sensing.

Learning objectives

After completion of this course, you will be able to:

  • explain the basic concepts and describe the key phenomena that are responsible for the importance of surface physics and nanophysics in modern science and technology.
  • name and explain some of the most important experimental and theoretical methods commonly used to assess and describe the properties of surfaces and nanoparticles.
  • apply theoretical reasoning to account for experimental observations of properties and processes at surfaces and in/on nanoparticles.
  • explain the key phenomena for the interaction of light with metal surfaces and nanoparticles, and discuss their implications for applications in the field of plasmonics and nanooptics.

Required knowledge

A fundamental solid state physics course is the recommended background. 

Course content

The specific topics covered chronologically in the course are:

  • General introduction to surfaces: what is a surface and what makes it special? How do we experimentally address surfaces and how do we keep them clean?
  • Electron microscopy and spectroscopy methods to study surfaces and nanoparticles.
  • Surface structure.
  • Electronic structure of surfaces and nanoparticles and how it dictates how surfaces interact with molecules, for example during a catalytic reaction.
  • Physisorption and chemisorption of molecules on surfaces – the first two critical steps in any surface process and reaction.
  • Dynamics of reactions at surfaces.
  • How to make nanostructures and nanoparticles using bottom-up and top-down methods such as colloidal synthesis and nanolithography, respectively.
  • Nanooptics and nanoplasmonics fundamentals or how to control matter-light interactions at the nanoscale.
  • Quantum plasmonics or how quantum effects become important when light interacts with nanoparticles. Examples from research at Chalmers.
  • How to use localized surface plasmons as nanoscale sensors and enhancers of catalytic reactions on nanoparticles. Examples from research at Chalmers.

Course roadmap

This roadmap aids at guiding the students in understanding how the different lectures are connected and how they form a series where the components build on each other.


Reading material

The following books/article sections are comprehensive background  reading material (not compulsory!) for the course and available via Chalmers Library for the interested student:
  • Zangwill A.  "Physics at Surfaces", Cambridge University Press, New York 1988.
  • Sections 1-5 in Berland et al., Reports on Progress in Physics 78, 066501 (2015).
  • Sections 1 - 2.1 in Hyldgaard et al., Journal of Physics: Condensed Matter, 32, 39001 (2020)
  • Chorkendorff and J. W. Niemantsverdriet "Concepts of Modern Catalysis and Kinetics, Willey-VCH, 2003.
  • Kolasinski K. W.  "Surface Science", J. Wiley&Sons Ltd, 2002.
  • Unertl W. N.,  "Handbook of Surface Science: Physical Structure", Vol. 3, Elsevier, 1996.
  • Holloway and J. Norskov, "Bonding at Surfaces", Liverpool University Press.
  • Stefan A. Maier, “Plasmonics – Fundamentals and Applications”, Springer 2007.

Lecture handouts will be distributed in class and serve as the main study material.

Course schedule

To always have the latest and 100% correct schedule, please check TimeEdit. The version below may not be updated at all times. The current version is dated to August 24th 2021.


Lab Schedule

You chose one date out of the three sessions offered for each of the two labs by emailing your preferred date to the respective lab assistant. Note that the slots are assigned on a first-come-first-serve basis and that participation in both labs is compulsory.

Contact information of lab assistants:

Christopher Tiburski:

Adriana Canales Ramos:


Measures taken to ensure safe lab sessions during Covid-19 pandemic (these are for the time being last year's measures. We will update and communicate exactly how we handle this this year within the first course week, when we know exactly how many participants we have in the course):

  • Only 1 person in the lab at the time, together with the lab supervisor.
  • Wear gloves at all times and disinfect hands every time prior to touching an instrument.
  • Keep at least 1.5 m distance. Marks on the floor.
  • Lab supervisors wear face protection.
  • If you have even the slightest symptoms, stay home, and we will find a solution for you to re-do the lab. If you don’t, the lab supervisors have the right to send you home.
  • Since these measures may influence the outcomes of the lab in terms of quality of data acquisition, if necessary, you will receive high quality data from the lab supervisors for further analysis and to solve the tasks outlined in the Lab-PMs.
  • If you are part of a risk group, you must provide a doctors certificate and report that centrally at the Student Support Unit to Pia Hepsever (, as well as  notify the examiner at course start the very latest.


Project Work

Goals of the project work:

The first goal of the project work is that you in groups of two students get in contact with and understand in detail and in depth one specific topic of surface and nanophysics, which is at the forefront of international research in the field. You will do this by reading, analyzing and summarizing a high-profile research article on a topic of your own choice in a short written report that will be graded. To successfully execute the project work, you furthermore must read at least three additional articles to the one you have chosen (probably from the list of references in your article) to be able to get a detailed understanding of your work and the used experimental techniques, and to be able to put it into perspective.

Here a useful link about how to read a scientific paper:

The second goal of the project work is that you present your chosen topic and paper to the class in a pedagogical oral presentation at a minisymposium at the end of the course. We emphasize that the presentation is to be pedagogical in the sense that it must be possible for your colleagues, who have not read the article, to understand what it is about, why it is important and how the results presented have been generated so that they also can share your learning experience and get exposed to a  variety of cutting-edge research in surface- and nanophysics. Since you will get written feedback from the teachers on your presentations, this is also a great opportunity to practice and improve your presentation skills. The presentation will also be graded.

The third goal of the project work is that you will act as "reviewer" of two of the projects from fellow students by reading their report and preparing at least 3 questions for the project discussion at the mini-symposium after the presentations of the two groups you have reviewed. In this way you will, in addition to your own project topic, also get some deeper insight into two additional state-of-the-art topics of surface and nanophysics.

Timeline and important dates:

  • Selection of topic and team formation: By Monday September 6th at 24:00 the latest you must send an e-mail to Timur and Christoph with the name of the two project group members and a selection of three topics for your project work chosen from the list you find on the "documents" page. We will then confirm which of the topics you will get to work on. Topics are available on a first-come-first-serve basis.
  • Suggestion of research articles for your project work: By Monday September 13th at 24:00 the latest you must send an e-mail to Timur and Christoph in which you attach at least three scientific papers on the topic that you have chosen earlier. We will then tell you which of the three is the most suitable one for your project work. Note also the we do not accept Review articles for the project work, it has to be original research papers. We also highly advise you to chose your article from a high-profile scientific journal, such as the Nature family, Science family, Advanced Materials family, Physical Review family, Surface Science, ACS Nano, Nano Letters, ACS Catalysis, Angewandte Chemie, Nanoscale family or similar, to guarantee you choosing a study of significant relevance.
  • Hand-in of project reports to Timur and Christoph, as well as your reviewers: By Wednesday October 13th at 24:00 the latest you must send your report by e-mail to Timur and Christoph, as well as to the two reviewer groups that will be assigned later in the course.
  • The Lab reports must be handed in two weeks after the actual lab the latest by e-mail to Christopher and Adriana.

Specific instructions for the written report:

Your written summary must not be longer than 3 A4 pages (a cover page does not count and a page with references does not count). This length-restriction will deliberately result in a short report with the main aim to make you reflect on and summarize in your own words the key - and only the key - aspects of the scientific paper you have chosen. This is only possible if you really understand the work you review in great detail, as well as if you understand the context within which it is relevant. Hence, only if you successfully complete the task, you will have become experts on a specific topic in surface- or nanophysics, which - hopefully - will make you realize and appreciate what you have learnt during the course and what a deep level of understanding of state-of-the-art research you can reach based on your knowledge.

As a specific tip for the report, always ask yourselves what is really important to be included to be able to understand the essence of the summarized work even without reading the paper itself, and what is not so important and can be left out.

The report must address/discuss the following specific points:

  • What is the motivation of the research, i.e. why was it carried out/which challenge was addressed and why?
  • Explain which methods (theoretical and/or experimental) that were used and also briefly explain their fundamental principle(s) of operation.
  • What are the main findings of the paper?
  • What are the main implications/consequences of the findings for this research field and for society as a whole. Put this research into context.
  • Briefly impose your own critique, i.e. discuss whether you agree with the conclusions made by the authors and the implications/importance of the work they put forward. Do you have another opinion? Have they forgotten something? Are they correct or simply wrong?
  • To really understand the topic of your Research Project we expect you to (= you must) read at least 3 more relevant papers on the subject and list them as references.
  • You can include figures from the original paper in your report.

Specific instructions for the oral presentation:

As described for the goals, it is important that this presentation is pedagogical enough that your colleagues who have neither read the paper presented, nor your summary report, can understand why the research was done, why it is important, how it was done and what the main conclusions and implications of the work are. Please carefully consider the following points when preparing your presentations:

  • Your project presentation must be in English and both group members must present.
  • The presentation must be maximal 8 minutes long. It will be timed by us and timing is part of the grading. Make good use of your time!
  • The presentation must be so clear that course participants can follow it even without reading the paper beforehand.
  • Do practice runs at home or in front of your classmates to fine tune your presentation. Try to speak freely without written notes.
  • A general recommendation regarding the structure of the presentation is to spend 1-2 minutes for general introduction of the field/problem its relevance for science or technology and society, followed by a presentation of how the researchers executed their study and of the key results and finally a discussion of the relevance and implications of the results (here, just as for the report, we encourage that you do not only give the conclusions provided by the authors of the paper but also your own conclusions).


The examination is divided into three parts, the project report, the project presentation and the lab reports:

  • The project report counts 30 % of the total grade. It will be graded with written feedback from teachers.
  • The project presentation counts 30 % of total grade. It will be graded with written feedback from teachers.
  • The two reports for the labs on surface physics and nanoplasmonics, respectively, count 20% each.
  • The maximum grade you can get from the project work (report + presentation) and the lab reports is 4, even if you have a 5 in all elements.

To get grade 5, you are welcome to participate in bonus quizzes:

  • The quizzes are held in the beginning of each double lecture, in Canvas , and will assess in compact form the learning from the previous double lecture.
  • The successful participation in the quizzes can add +1 to the total grade (i.e. 3 -> 4 or 4 -> 5).
  • There will be 13 quizzes in total (1 per every lecture minus the intro) but only the best 10 of them will contribute to your score. Thus the maximum score is 100 points (10 points per quiz).
  • To get the bonus point and thus the +1 in your overall grade you need to score > 75 points.

To pass the course:

  • You must pass the three examination parts independently (= grade 3 or better). Re-exam is taken individually on the part(s) that was/were failed.
  • You must participate in and complete the two labs, including the corresponding lab reports.
  • You must attend the entire minisymposium.
  • You must attend at least 10 out of the 14 offered lectures. In case you for some reason are not able to do this, contact Christoph and Timur immediately.