Chemical reactions at surfaces not only underpin heterogeneous catalysis and semiconductor device fabrication but also dominate corrosion and a range of environmental and meteorological phenomena. As a result, courses on surface processes are now given in most undergraduate chemistry programmes.
Surface-science textbooks are often aimed at both the undergraduate and the postgraduate markets, with unfortunate consequences.
A treatment appropriate at postgraduate level baffles the beginner, partly because at this level there is a tendency to develop the subject through description of experimental techniques.
Elaine McCash neatly circumvents the problem by directing her discussion squarely at the undergraduate. Each topic is described at an elementary level, with many diagrams, examples and numerical calculations. After a brief introduction, three substantial chapters deal with the clean surface, the processes of adsorption and desorption, and surface reactions. The final chapter describes thin films and interfaces between different materials.
As the cover blurb stresses, the book is also "concept rather than technique-driven". A range of experimental techniques is described, but they are introduced in terms of their contribution to specific areas.
Particular emphasis is given to vibrational spectroscopy, reflecting the author's research interests while redressing the balance found in most other textbooks, in which insufficient recognition has been given to this subject. However, the book rather underrepresents the contribution made by another modern range of techniques, the scanning-probe microscopies.
My own department has adopted this book as its primary text for courses in surface chemistry. I recommend others to do the same.
Peter Hollins is reader in surface science, University of Reading.
Surface Chemistry. First edition
Author - Elaine M. McCash
ISBN - 0 19 850328 8
Publisher - Oxford University Press
Price - £16.99
Pages - 177