Surface Science and Engineering

Professors working in this area include:

Surface engineering is a discipline that seeks to control or tailor the properties of a material’s surface. A wide range of technological applications make use of surface engineering principles including Si device technology, biomaterials, nanomaterials, aerospace and automotive engineering - all seeking to optimize various surface properties (e.g. biocompatibility, corrosion and wear resistance).

Research on surface engineering in our department is led by Professors Richard Chromik, Mathieu Brochu, Kirk Bevan and Marta Cerruti.

Cross sectional image of a co-sputtered 80%Au/MoS2 coating deposited on silicon

Specialized Techniques for Coatings Tribology

Professor Richard Chromik develops test instrumentation for tribological characterization of materials. These efforts include microtribology characterization of candidate materials for micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS) which makes use of a Ubi III nanoindentation system (Hysitron, Inc.). This system includes a “spatial friction” capability developed in consultation with Professor Chromik and Dr. Kathryn Wahl at Naval Research Laboratory. For macroscale tribology, Professor Chromik and graduate student Holger Strauss have built an in situ tribometer, a specialized instrument that allows direct observation of the “buried interface” during a sliding wear test. This instrument will determine the wear or lubrication mechanisms at play when a hard coating exhibits good wear resistance or fails. This additional information will be essential in designing the next generation of wear resistant coatings for sectors such as aerospace, automotive, forestry and mining.

Professor Chromik's and Brochu’s research efforts focus on the development and characterization of surface modification techniques, primarily coatings, for the enhancement of wear resistance and friction control. Thus, the most active research area is coatings tribology, with coatings being developed for many industries including aerospace, mining, oil sands and forestry. Coatings are prepared by specialized welding techniques including electrospark welding and control short circuit metal inert gas welding, while advanced claddings are produced by Spark Plasma Sintering. These versatile techniques are capable of producing a wide range of microstructures, including conventional, amorphous and nanostructured. Coatings are evaluated by nanoindentation, standard tribological testing and specialized testing with an in situ tribometer capable of revealing coating wear mechanisms and allowing for better optimization of coatings based on observation of in-service performance.

Wear track was performed using a 50µm tip radius and a 1.0mN normal load for 800 cycles at 4% relative humidity on a pure MoS2 sample

Active collaborations in this research area include École Polytechnique de Montréal, Aerospace Research Corporation, Pratt & Whitney Canada, Imperial Oil and Alcoa Canada.






Professor Bevan’s research group explores nanoscale electronic materials and devices, to develop next-generation energy, computing, and sensing technologies. This is accomplished through the application and development of technology computer aided design (TCAD) methods. Topics of research in surface science include: silicon surface functionalization for device technology and the chemical modification of thin film materials (such as graphene).

Graphene Oxidation

Professor Cerruti’s research focuses on surface properties of biomaterials, which determine how an implant will be mechanically and biologically integrated in the body. Her group is developing coatings made of amino acids, oligopeptides or other simple molecules, which will either enhance or inhibit the precipitation of hydroxyapatite on materials for bone or cartilage regeneration.