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Research at St Andrews

Renald Schaub


Renald Schaub
Postal address:
School of Chemistry
Purdie Building
North Haugh
St Andrews
United Kingdom


Direct phone: +44 (0)1334 463824

Research overview

The objective of my research is to provide a better understanding of fundamental principles and mechanisms involved in the chemistry and physics of surfaces. This interest stems from a need for understanding the fundamental properties of materials in sufficient detail to be able to improve device performances for a variety of technological applications. This can be addressed by the use of scanning probe microscopies (STM, AFM) yielding high-resolution and real-space information on surface phenomena, supported by theoretical calculations (DFT). Strategies are devised to properly interrogate relevant systems at the atomic scale. For instance, surface nano-engineering is investigated with the aim of delivering concepts that can be used for the development of new devices used in, e.g., heterogeneous catalysis, photo-catalysis, molecular electronics and architectures. Our application of ultra-microscopy aims at going beyond the traditional use (i.e. high-magnification topography) of such instrumentation by achieving the following: (1) local electronic and vibrational spectroscopy (STS and IETS) of single atoms/molecules; (2) atomic and molecular manipulation; (3) fast-acquisition (several tens of images per second) towards resolving dynamics at surfaces; and (4) high-pressure measurements towards meaningful studies at the gas/solid interface (UHV-based).  For more information please see our group website.

My research group in St Andrews focuses on the Fischer-Tropsch synthesis (CO+H2 towards hydrocarbons and/or added-value oxygenates). Our recent work relates to the interaction of small hydrocarbons with Rh(111) surface, and in particular, to the dehydrogenation processes that lead to the formation of various condensed carbon phases on the active metal. Carbidic or graphitic in nature (as for the one-atom-thick graphene), these carbon forms can either be beneficial or detrimental, playing an active role in the chemical conversion or leading to the deactivation of the catalytic sites. We have recently studied by low-temperature STM/STS and DFT calculations the morphology of single-layer graphene grown on Rh(111) by CVD of C2H4. We showed that (and explained why) the epitaxy of graphene on Rh is so markedly different from other TM surfaces (e.g. Ir, Ru, Pd, and Pt) [ACS Nano 4, 5773 (2010)]. Furthermore, my group is the first to report on the direct experimental identification of size-selective carbon clusters as precursors to the growth of graphene on a TM surface [Nano Lett. 11, 424 (2010)]. As a wish to explore many exciting and diverse areas of research in surface science, I have developed over the last few years a solid network of collaborators in fields such as self-assembled monolayers, strongly correlated electron systems, and molecular switches for unconventional nano-electronics.

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