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Steinrück Group

Research Profile


Univ.-Prof. Dr. Hans-Peter Steinrück

Physical Chemistry, University Erlangen-Nürnberg, Germany


Prof. Hans-Peter Steinrück is investigating the physics and chemistry of surfaces since the beginning of his career, 1982-1985 at the TU Graz/Austria, 1985/1986 at Stanford University/USA, 1986-1993 at the TU München/Germany, 1993 at Rutgers University/USA, 1994-1998 at the University Würzburg/Germany, and since 1998 at the University Erlangen-Nürnberg/Germany.

In March 1998 Prof. Steinrück was appointed to the Chair of Physical Chemistry II at the Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) and since then he built up an active international and interdisciplinary research group. He is Principle Investigator (PI) in the Cluster of Excellence EXC 315 “Engineering of Advanced Materials – Hierarchical Structure Formation for Functional Devices“, which was granted to the University Erlangen-Nürnberg in 2007. This adds to the funding of his group by the German Science Foundation (DFG, via collaborative research centers (SFBs) 292, 338, 410, 583, 953, research unit (FOR) 1878, priority programs (SPPs) 1091, 1191, and individual grants), BMBF, EU, DAAD, FCI, State of Bavaria, BaCaTeC, BayCHINA, Max-Buchner Research Foundation und Alexander-von-Humboldt Foundation. In 2016 he was granted an ERC Advanced Grant.

The scientific output of this research is documented in more than 310 publications in refereed international journals and more than 200 invited lectures at international conferences and scientific institutions.

The mission of the Steinrück group is to provide a perfect environment to perform surface and interface science at the highest possible level and to create an attractive and international competitive atmosphere for researchers at all stages of their career, from BSc, MSc and PhD students to postdocs and junior group leaders. The research activities follow an interdisciplinary approach with numerous local, national and international cooperation partners in physics, chemistry, chemical engineering, and materials science, which are documented in collaborative research projects and publications. Specific emphasis is also given to the education of undergraduate students, in lectures, seminars and lab courses.

Presently, the group numbers over 20 PhD students and postdoctoral researchers, and Prof. Steinrück has already mentored 5 Habilitations plus 21 postdocs, and graduated 48 PhD students in his professorial career. The international character of the group is reflected by 16 different nationalities of his former and present coworkers (Austria, China, Denmark, Germany, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Pakistan, Poland, Romania, Russia, Sierra Leone, Spain, Turkey, UK). His former doctoral students and postdocs have been offered attractive positions in worldwide leading companies (e.g. Siemens, Infineon, IBM, ThyssenKrupp, BMW) or academic institutions; 9 of them occupy positions as professor at Universities in Germany, UK or China.

The research is performed partly in collaborations, with other experimental and theoretical research groups at the University Erlangen-Nürnberg, in Chemistry (J. Bachmann, T. Clark, T. Drewello, R. Fink, A. Görling, W. Hieringer, A. Hirsch, N. Jux, J. Libuda, U. Zenneck), Physics (S. Maier, P. Müller, P. S. J. Russel), Chemical Engineering (P. Wasserscheid, W. Schwieger, W. Peukert, N. Popovska, A. Fröba), Materials Science (C. Brabec, P. Schmuki, E. Spiecker, M. Halik), and Informatics (J. Hornegger). In addition, there exist collaborations, national (with J. Barth (TU München), M. Bäumer (U Bremen), J. Behm (U Ulm), R. Denecke (U Leipzig), B. Etzold (TU Darmstadt), J. M. Gottfried (U Marburg), M. Huth (U Frankfurt), T. Jacob (U Ulm), B. Kirchner (U Bonn), T. Seyller (TU Chemnitz), M. Sokolowski (U Bonn)), and international (with C. T. Campbell (U Washington, Seattle, USA), O. Diwald (U Salzburg, Austria), C. S. Fadley (UC Davis & ALS, USA), A. Hamza (LLNL, USA), G. Held (U Reading, UK), J. Jupille (INSP, France), J. Kiss (U Szeged, Hungary), P. Licence (U Nottingham, UK), V. Matolin (Charles U, Prague, Czech Republic), N. Lin (Hong Kong U of Science & Techn., China), J.-S. McEwen (Washington State U, Pullman, USA), K. Neyman (U Barcelona), S. Perkin (U Oxford, UK), K. Prince (Elettra, Trieste, Italy), G. Thornton (U College London, UK), A. Vittadini (CNR-IENI, Padova, Italy), T. Welton (Imperial College, UK), F. Williams (U Buenos Aires, Argentina), J. F. Zhu (USTC, Hefei, China)); the mentioned cooperation projects are all documented by collaborative publications and/or external funding within the last 5 years.

The activities of the Steinrück group focus in the area of surface and interface science with main research interests in:

  1. Development of new materials with novel electronic, geometric, and chemical properties
  2. Investigation of elementary steps of surface reactions
  3. Construction of advanced scientific apparatus

These studies aim at a fundamental physical and chemical understanding of the mechanisms and processes involved, at an atomic level. A large variety of state-of-the-art experimental techniques is applied, partly utilizing synchrotron radiation. The methods range from high resolution X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS), angle-resolved UV- und X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (ARUPS, ARXPS), Auger electron spectroscopy (AES, XAES), photoelectron diffraction (PED), electron energy loss spectroscopy (EELS), near edge X-ray absorption fine structure measurements (NEXAFS), temperature programmed desorption (TPD), work function measurements, low energy ion scattering (LEIS), and molecular beam methods (Maxwellian beams and supersonic beams) to low energy electron diffraction (LEED, including LEED-IV analysis), scanning tunneling microscopy (STM), scanning electron (SEM), and scanning Auger microscopy (SAM). The measurements at synchrotron radiation facilities are performed since 1986, mainly at BESSY and BESSY II, but also at MAX-lab, ELETTRA, SSRL, ALS and ESRF. In addition, the development of experimental methods is put forward, concerning technical improvements as well as the understanding of the underlying fundamental concepts.

In the following the ongoing projects and their major results are summarized and important past highlights are briefly addressed.

Ionic Liquid Surface Science concerns pioneering work addressing the liquid/vacuum and liquid/solid interface of ionic liquids (ILs). Using an interdisciplinary approach, in cooperation with the synthetically oriented group of Prof. Peter Wasserscheid, the fundamental relations between the chemical structure of known and new ILs and their bulk and surface properties as well as their reactivity are studied. In the focus are non-functionalized and functionalized ILs, mixtures of ILs, transition metal complexes dissolved in ILs, in situ reaction studies and the interaction of gases and organic molecules with ILs. The studies benefit from the extremely low vapor pressure of most ILs, which enables their investigation with surface science methods in ultra-high vacuum, in particular with angle-resolved X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (ARXPS). The most recent work is funded by an ERC Advanced Grant since 2016.

The adsorption and reactivity of redox-active metalloporphyrins were and are studied by the Steinrück group in the collaborative research center SFB 583 “Redox Active Metal Complexes – Controlling Reactivity Through Molecular Architectures” (2004-2012) and the research unit (FOR) 1878 “funCOS – Functional Molecular Structures on Complex Oxide Surfaces“. Specific attention is paid to well-defined porphyrin layers, in particular monolayers, on various metal surfaces. The investigations focus on novel surface reactions, such as the direct in situ metalation of adsorbed free base porphyrins, in order to produce highly reactive metalloporphyrins, and the adsorption and complexation of small molecules (NH3, NO, CO, O2) at the coordinated metal centers. The reactivity of these centers (Fe, Co, Ni, Zn, Cu) can be tailored by the electronic interaction with the underlying metal surface (substrate) by variation of either the substrate or the distance between substrate and metal center by the attachment of appropriate ligands at the periphery of the macrocycle. Additional important aspects are the intramolecular conformation of the porphyrins and other tetrapyrroles and the formation of supramolecular networks. The applied experimental methods are mainly photoelectron spectroscopy and scanning tunneling microscopy.

In situ studies of surface reactions provide detailed insights in the relevant elementary steps during adsorption and reaction of molecules on single crystal surfaces and during their thermal evolution. In 1999, the Steinrück group built up a UHV apparatus, which combines high resolution X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy with a supersonic molecular beam. At a third generation synchrotron facility, such as BESSY II in Berlin, this setup allows to measure highly resolved XP spectra with very short measurement times (down to 1 spectrum/second) as function of pressure, temperature, structure or coverage. Due to the high resolution, different surface species can be identified and quantified. This enables to derive detailed conclusions on reaction mechanisms and kinetics. Recently, fundamental insights have been obtained concerning the adsorption of small molecules (NO, O2, CO2, H2O, SO2), the oxidation of CO or atomic sulphur, and the adsorption of various saturated and non-saturated hydrocarbons (CH4, C2H2, C2H4, C2H6, C6H6) on flat and stepped metal surfaces and also on oxide surfaces.

A related topic is near ambient pressure XPS in the so-called “pressure gap”. These studies aim at bridging the gap between classical UHV experiments on model systems and the ambient conditions in real catalysis. Using a spectrometer built in 2001/2002 that is equipped with a triply differentially pumped electron analyzer and a differentially pumped Al-Kα source, XPS measurements can be performed up to 1 mbar, i.e. up to pressures close to those relevant in real systems. In the recent past, major topics in this project were, e.g., methanol steam reforming at PdZn catalysts, the catalytic properties of nanosized Au and Pt, liquid Ga-based catalysts, and CO2 capture.

Recently, the studies were expanded on Liquid Organic Hydrogen Carriers (LOHCs). These molecules are an attractive and promising alternative to the present storage of hydrogen at high pressures or low temperatures. Suitable organic molecule pairs such as Perhydro-N-ethylcarbazole/N-ethylcarbazole (H12-NEC/NEC) and Perhydrodibenzyltoluol/Dibenzyltoluene are considered as promising candidates. The hydrogen-lean compound can be hydrogenated over suitable catalysts to the hydrogen-rich form, that is, hydrogen can be stored. On demand, the hydrogen-rich form can be dehydrogenated to the hydrogen-lean form, again over a suitable catalyst, thereby releasing the hydrogen to be used in mobile or stationary applications. Aim of this work is to test new molecules for hydrogen storage and to develop improved catalysts.

Since 2010 the Steinrück group studies the chemical modification of supported graphene (on metal substrates) by heteroatoms (SFB 953 “Synthetic carbon allotropes“). Strategies for the modification are the preadsorption or codeposition of N- or B-containing molecules, the dosage of reactive species using a supersonic molecular beam, functionalization with rylenes and porphyrins, hydrogenation to graphane and intercalation of metals. In addition, the in situ synthesis of macromolecular structures is foreseen on metal surfaces. As experimental method, predominantly X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy is applied, using synchrotron radiation at BESSY II.

Electron Beam Induced Deposition (EBID) of nanostructures on different surfaces (metals, semiconductors and oxides) is one further major research activity. The Steinrück group could demonstrate that upon electron beam induced deposition of adsorbed precursor molecules, e.g. Fe(CO)5, under ultra-high vacuum conditions, a hitherto unreached purity of the metal deposits of >95% can be achieved, with lateral dimensions down to <10 nm. Recently, a new and promising variant of electron beam induced processing of surfaces was developed for the production of clean and laterally well-defined nanostructures. In this novel two step approach first, an oxide surface is locally "activated" by the highly focused electron beam prior to dosing the precursor gas. Secondly, the preactivated structure is “developed” by exposing the surface to the precursor gas, which dissociates only in the preactivated regions. A further important goal is the investigation of fundamental aspects of electron-precursor and electron-substrate interactions.

Other research activities, for which the research team of Prof. Steinrück has received significant attention and recognition in the past, are:

Electronic Structure of ultrathin metal layers and alloys: Preparation, characterization, electronic band structure, and correlations between electronic and chemical properties.

Oxide surfaces and surface oxides: Characterization, growth, deposition of metals, adsorption of small molecules, strong metal support interaction (SMSI).

Electronic properties, structure and orientation of small molecules on metal surfaces: Interplay of adsorbate-adsorbate and adsorbate-substrate interactions, one- and two-dimensional adsorbate band structures, pure and coadsorbed molecular layers, angle-resolved UV photoelectron spectroscopy, symmetry selection rules, near edge X-ray absorption spectroscopy (NEXAFS), LEED-IV analysis.

Molecular beam studies of gas-surface interactions: Microscopic reversibility, detailed balance, energy and angular dependence of sticking coefficients, angular dependence of desorbing molecules, adsorption kinetics and dynamics.

Electronic properties, 3D band structure and valence band offsets of II-VI semiconductors and heteroepitactical layers: Experimental determination of the band structure, UV photoelectron spectroscopy, electron energy loss spectroscopy, ZnSe, BeTe, CdTe.

Photoelectron holography: First experimental demonstration of the applicability of this approach (sulphur on Ni(111)); fundamental experimental studies concerning photoelectron diffraction.

Final state effects in photoelectron spectroscopy: Photon energy dependence of the cross section, shape resonances, dynamical Jahn-Teller effects in UV photoelectron spectroscopy, vibrational excitations in X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy.

Development of new experimental apparatus: Setups for measuring the angular dependence of sticking coefficients and desorption fluxes; simple helium scattering apparatus; UHV chambers for fast XPS (down to 1 spectrum per sec), near ambient pressure XPS (up to 1 mbar) and microcalorimetry.

  • F. Rietzler, B. May, H.-P. Steinrück, F. Maier
    Switching adsorption and growth behavior of ultrathin [C2C1Im][OTf] films on Au(111) by Pd deposition
    Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys. 18 (2016) 25143-25150. / DOI: 10.1039/c6cp04938a
  • M. Franke, F. Marchini, N. Jux, H.-P. Steinrück, O. Lytken, F. J. Williams
    Zinc Porphyrin Metal-Center Exchange at the Solid-Liquid Interface
    Chem. Eur. J. 22 (2016) 8520-8524. / DOI: 10.1002/chem.201600634
  • L. Zhang, M. Lepper, M. Stark, D. Lungerich, N. Jux, W. Hieringer, H.-P. Steinrück, H. Marbach
    Self-assembly and coverage dependent thermally induced conformational changes of Ni(II)-mesotetrakis (4-tert-butylphenyl) benzoporphyrin on Cu(111)
    Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys. 17 (2015) 13066-13073. / DOI: 10.1039/C5CP01490E
  • K. Gotterbarm, F. Späth, U. Bauer, C. Bronnbauer, H.-P. Steinrück, C. Papp
    Reactivity of Graphene-Supported Pt Nanocluster Arrays
    ACS Catal. 5 (2015) 2397-2403. / DOI: 10.1021/acscatal.5b00245
  • S. Ditze, M. Stark, F. Buchner, A. Aichert, N. Jux, N. Luckas, A. Görling, W. Hieringer, J. Hornegger, H.-P. Steinrück, H. Marbach
    On the Energetics of Conformational Switching of Molecules at and Close to Room Temperature
    J. Am. Chem. Soc. 136 (2014) 1609-1616. / DOI: 10.1021/ja411884p
  • I. Niedermaier, M. Bahlmann, C. Papp, C. Kolbeck, W. Wei, S. Krick Calderón, M. Grabau, P. S. Schulz, P. Wasserscheid, H.-P. Steinrück, F. Maier
    Carbon Dioxide Capture by an Amine Functionalized Ionic Liquid: Fundamental Differences of Surface and Bulk Behavior
    J. Am. Chem. Soc. 136 (2014) 436-441. / DOI: 10.1021/ja410745a
  • I. Niedermaier, N. Taccardi, P. Wasserscheid, F. Maier, H.-P. Steinrück
    Probing a Gas/Liquid Acid-Base Reaction by X-ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy
    Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 52 (2013) 8904-8907. / DOI: 10.1002/anie.201304115
  • C. Gleichweit, M. Amende, S. Schernich, W. Zhao, M. P. A. Lorenz, O. Höfert, N. Brückner, P. Wasserscheid, J. Libuda, H.-P. Steinrück, C. Papp
    Dehydrogenation of Dodecahydro-N-ethylcarbazole on Pt(111)
    ChemSusChem 6 (2013) 974-977. / DOI: 10.1002/cssc.201300263
  • S. Ditze, M. Stark, M. Drost, F. Buchner, H.-P. Steinrück, H. Marbach
    Activation Energy for the Self-Metalation Reaction of 2H-tetraphenylporphyrin on Cu(111)
    Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 51 (2012) 10898-10901. / DOI: 10.1002/anie.201205464
  • C. Kolbeck, I. Niedermaier, N. Taccardi, P. S. Schulz, F. Maier, P. Wasserscheid, H.-P. Steinrück
    Monitoring of Liquid-Phase Organic Reactions by Photoelectron Spectroscopy
    Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 51 (2012) 2610-2613 (VIP article – Inside Back Cover). / DOI: 10.1002/anie.201107402
  • J. M. Englert, C. Dotzer, G. Yang, M. Schmid, C. Papp, J. M. Gottfried, H.-P. Steinrück, E. Spiecker, F. Hauke, A. Hirsch
    Covalent Bulk Functionalization of Graphene
    Nature Chem. 3 (2011) 279-286 – Cover. / DOI: 10.1038/nchem.1010
  • H.-P. Steinrück, J. Libuda, P. Wasserscheid, T. Cremer, C. Kolbeck, M. Laurin, F. Maier, M. Sobota, P. S. Schulz, M. Stark
    Surface Science and Model Catalysis with Ionic Liquid-Modified Materials
    Adv. Mater. 23 (2011) 2571-2587. / DOI: 10.1002/adma.201100211
  • M.-M. Walz, M. Schirmer, F. Vollnhals, T. Lukasczyk, H.-P. Steinrück, H. Marbach
    Electrons as “Invisible Ink”: Fabrication of Nanostructures by Local Electron Beam Induced Activation of SiOx
    Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 49 (2010) 4669-4673 (VIP article – COVER). / DOI: 10.1002/anie.201001308
  • R. Streber, C. Papp, M. P. A. Lorenz, A. Bayer, R. Denecke, H.-P. Steinrück
    Sulfur Oxidation on Pt(355): It is the Steps!
    Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 48 (2009) 9743-9746. / DOI: 10.1002/anie.200904488
  • F. Buchner, K. Seufert, W. Auwärter, D. Heim, J. V. Barth, K. Flechtner, J. M. Gottfried, H.-P. Steinrück, H. Marbach
    NO-induced reorganization of porphyrin arrays
    ACS Nano 3 (2009) 1789-1794. / DOI: 10.1021/nn900399u
  • K. Flechtner, A. Kretschmann, H.-P. Steinrück, J. M. Gottfried
    NO-induced reversible switching of the electronic interaction between a porphyrin-coordinated cobalt ion and a silver surface
    J. Am. Chem. Soc. 129 (2007) 12110-12111. / DOI: 10.1021/ja0756725
  • J. M. Gottfried, K. Flechtner, A. Kretschmann, T. Lukasczyk, H.-P. Steinrück
    Direct synthesis of a metalloporphyrin complex on a surface
    J. Am. Chem. Soc. 128 (2006) 5644-5645. / DOI: 10.1021/ja0610333
  • F. Maier, J. M. Gottfried, J. Rossa, D. Gerhard, P. S. Schulz, W. Schwieger, P. Wasserscheid, H.-P. Steinrück
    Surface enrichment and depletion effects of ions dissolved in an ionic liquid: An X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy study
    Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 45 (2006) 7778-7780. / DOI: 10.1002/anie.200602756
  • H.-P. Steinrück and P. Wasserscheid
    Ionic Liquids in Catalysis
    Catal. Lett. 145 (2015) 380-397. / DOI: 10.1007/s10562-014-1435-x
    Invited Review
  • C. Papp, P. Wasserscheid, J. Libuda, H.-P. Steinrück
    Liquid Organic Hydrogen Carriers: Surface Science Studies of Carbazole Derivatives
    Chem. Rec. 14 (2014) 879-896. / DOI: 10.1002/tcr.201402014
    Invited Contribution
  • H. Marbach and H.-P. Steinrück
    Studying the dynamic behaviour of porphyrins as prototype functional molecules by scanning tunnelling microscopy close to room temperature
    Chem. Commun. 50 (2014) 9034-9048. / DOI: 10.1039/C4CC01744G
    Feature Article on Invitation
  • C. Papp and H.-P. Steinrück
    In situ high-resolution X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy – Fundamental insights in surface reactions
    Surf. Sci. Rep. 68 (2013) 446-487. / DOI: 10.1016/j.surfrep.2013.10.003
  • H.-P. Steinrück
    Recent developments in the study of ionic liquid interfaces using X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy and potential future directions
    Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys. 14 (2012) 5010-5029. / DOI: 10.1039/C2CP24087D
    Invited Perspective Article – COVER
  • K. R. J. Lovelock, I. J. Villar-Garcia, F. Maier, H.-P. Steinrück, P. Licence
    Photoelectron Spectroscopy of Ionic Liquid Based Interfaces
    Chem. Rev. 110 (2010) 5158-5190. / DOI: 10.1021/cr100114t
  • H.-P. Steinrück
    Surface Science goes liquid !
    Surf. Sci. 604 (2010) 481-484. / DOI: 10.1016/j.susc.2009.12.033
    Invited Prospective Article
  • G. Held and H.-P. Steinrück
    Cyclic hydrocarbons
    Landolt-Börnstein “Physics of Covered Solid Surfaces – Adsorbed Layers on Surfaces”
    Editor: H. P. Bonzel, Vol. III/42, Subvolume A4, Chapter 3.8.7. (2005) pp. 300-369.
    ISBN: 978-3-540-20281-3 / DOI: 10.1007/b12050
    INVITED Contribution
  • M. Zharnikov and H.-P. Steinrück
    Holography with photoelectrons: a direct approach
    J. Phys. Condens. Matter 13 (2001) 10533-10560 (Invited Article). / DOI: 10.1088/0953-8984/13/47/302
  • H.-P. Steinrück
    Angle-resolved photoemission studies of adsorbed hydrocarbons
    J. Phys. Condens. Matter 8 (1996) 6465-6509. / DOI: 10.1088/0953-8984/8/36/003
    INVITED Topical Review article
  • H.-P. Steinrück
    Angle-resolved UV-photoelectron spectroscopy
    Vacuum 45 (1994) 715-731. / DOI: 10.1016/0042-207X(94)90111-2
    INVITED contribution to Special Edition on “Modern Methods of Surface Science and Analysis”

A full list of publications of the members of the Steinrück group since 1998 can be found here: 

A full list of publications of Univ.-Prof. Hans-Peter Steinrück since 1984 can be found here: