Surfaces and interfaces are indeed prone to unpredictable physical and chemical modifications due to interactions with uncontrolled atmospheres, surface re-organization, and contamination. High-impact research dealing with interfaces can therefore only be achieved if surfaces can be prepared, treated, and analyzed for both surface chemistry, physical characteristics and topography aspects at the same place. KU Leuven is very active in this field. This is supported by a pool of state-of-the-art equipment which contributes to improve our understanding of the atomistic mechanisms controlling interfacial properties. However, we still lack key tools to prepare, treat and characterize surfaces of materials with various more complex shapes (flat monoliths, fibers, particles) at a relatively large scale (20x20cm²), rapidly, and accurately. This also forms the missing link between fundamental studies and more applied research for which scale effects, repeatability, speed of measurements and versatility without compromising accuracy, play an important role. This project then aims at setting up a laboratory dedicated to the study of complex surfaces and interfaces, supported by a group of scientists and engineers offering complementary key expertise that will contribute to acquire novel and holistic views to unravel highly complex physico-chemical interfacial phenomena. 

Thanks to this infrastructure project, 4 devices were purchased: 

  • An atmospheric plasma system to activate and polymerize surfaces (PlasmaSpot Mini)
  • An optical profiler combining interferometry, confocal microscope, and focus variation to characterize surface topography (S-Neox
  • An inverse gas chromatography system to characterize surface properties of powder materials and fibers using gas molecules (IGC)
  • A versatile tensiometer to characterize the wetting properties of a broad range of materials (fibers, particles, flat surfaces, etc.) over a large temperature range, -20°C<T<300°C (DCAT)

Funding scheme: FWO medium-scale infrastructure  

Partners: ULB, UMons, UGent, UHasselt 

Period: 2020-2024