Physical chemistry of surfaces and interfaces

Lecturer(s): Denis MAZUYER, Juliette CAYER-BARRIOZ
Course ⋅ 8 hTC ⋅ 8 hAutonomy ⋅ 4 hStudy ⋅ 8 hProject ⋅ 4 h


This course covers the fundamentals of the properties of liquid or solid surfaces and interfaces. From a unified overview of intermolecular forces, a physical description of the liquid state and of complex systems where matter is in a highly divided state such as molecular aggregates, molecules in solutions or particles in suspension, is presented. They are characterized by the creation of extremely high surface / volume ratios. The control of the physico-chemical properties of these interfaces is necessary, at submicrometric or even molecular scales to optimize their manufacturing processes and to monitor their use properties, in various fields from biotechnology to civil engineering. These concepts will be applied to the behavior of (synthetic or natural) objects such as living tissue, cosmetics, paints and processes such as coating, detergency or therapeutic targeting.


Surface energy, intermolecular forces, interfaces, wetting, colloids


I. Intermolecular and surface forces – Polarization and Van der Waals forces – Solvatation forces – Electric double-layer (DLVO)

II. Solid/liquid interfaces – Surface energy and adhesion – Wetting and capillarity – Spreading of thin liquid films

III. Adsorption and surface modifications – Self-assembled systems and Langmuir films – Polymer interfaces

IV. Micels, emulsions et foams – Surfactants and micellar systems – Stability of coloids – Flows, molecular structure and their interactions

Learning Outcomes

  • Understand the key concepts of adhesion and surface energy
  • Know and apply the main intermolecular forces, the laws of wetting, capillarity and adsorption
  • Be able to implement a design approach for colloidal systems and analysis of their properties


Final mark = 50% Knowledge + 50% Know-how Knowledge = 100 % final exam Know-how = 100% continuous assessment