We use elastic and inelastic neutron scattering, x-ray scattering, and isothermal adsorption/desorption techniques, along with advanced microscopy, to study phase transitions in two and three dimensions. Our goal is to determine the structural, dynamic, and wetting properties of thin atomic films adsorbed on solid surfaces. We are continuously working on development and synthesis of nanomaterials (including using a patented method to synthesize MgO nanocubes, as well as synthesizing hollow mesoporous silica spheres, nanoporous anodized aluminum oxide, various nanotubes, and doped metal oxides), and use those materials as substrates for our adsorption and neutron studies. The systems we are currently studying include hydrogen, short-chain alkanes, nitromethane, benzene, cyclohexane, and others.
Neutron scattering and isothermal adsorption measurements provide the microscopic information necessary for the development of a quantitative theoretical description of molecule-molecule and molecule-surface interactions. We use computer modeling methods, including Monte Carlo and Molecular Dynamics based simulations to enhance our understanding of experimental results. The knowledge gained from our surface studies can be applied in such areas as thin film coatings, catalysis, microelectronics, corrosion, and lubrication — research areas with great present and future technological importance. Our research interests also include the study of Rayleigh-Benard convection in liquid helium, the synthesis of high-quality single-crystals and novel substrate materials, and the study of confinement effects in nanoporous materials.