Georg is the Principal Beamline Scientist for B07, the Versatile Soft X-ray (VERSOX) beamline, and has a joint appointment with the University of Reading, where he is Professor in Surface Science. Georg’s research interests focus on fundamental aspects of heterogeneous catalysis and the development of methods for accurate characterisation of adsorbed molecules.
Hi Georg, what brought you to Diamond? How did you come to work here?
I have been a keen synchrotron user for a long time, and much of my work over the past 15 years has involved using different soft X-ray techniques like X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) to investigate catalysts. I had been a user at the Synchrotron Radiation Source in Daresbury for a few years, so when Diamond moved to within touching distance of Reading, I applied for beamtime as soon as I could. A bit later I took on a liaison role for the university to get more scientists at Reading together with scientists at Diamond. This involved helping write proposals, giving advice on suitable beamlines, and organising workshops. With my background as a user in ambient pressure XPS, I took a joint appointment between Reading and Diamond in 2012, which coincided with the start of the VERSOX beamline, which I co-proposed.
What do you do here, and how does your experience help?
I had my first ambient pressure XPS (APXPS) beamtime at the Advanced Light Source (ALS) in around 2008 at a time when this was still a relatively new technique; only about 8 years on from the very first paperclip and blue-tack experiments, and about three years after the first custom-built APXPS beamlines at the ALS and Bessy II came into operation. It was still a small market back then in terms of numbers of people who understood the science, so when it came to getting VERSOX off the ground, my previous experience on the endstation there in Berkeley certainly helped. The joint appointment was initially to advise on VERSOX, but it became apparent I was in a unique position of being one of very few people in the UK with the requisite knowledge of the technology to take the project onwards.
What’s the big project you’re working on at the moment?
Well as a beamline we’re having our first groups of users on the new endstation, so getting feedback from their visits and continuing to tweak and improve our systems is high up on the agenda. And for the users we are always working on being able to do experiments at more realistic pressures. This means increasing our current pressure capability of around 10 millibar (mbar) to the region of 100 mbar.
While we’re currently looking at solid-gas interfaces, what I’d really like to tackle in the not too distant future is the solid-liquid interface. There’s a very important pressure threshold which is around 30 mbar, that’s the equilibrium vapour pressure of water at room temperature. If you can reach that 30 mbar and maintain a liquid film of water, you can model systems that represent catalysis in the liquid phase. This would also open up a whole new world of biological samples, where users could even look at living organisms such as algae in their natural environment.
What’s your favourite thing about working at Diamond?
For me it’s the people, and the enormous potential that comes from working alongside the incredibly skilled engineering, software, technical, and beamline teams. Being surrounded by the range of expertise here, both staff and users, there’s always something there to challenge you and push your own levels up.
What advice would you give someone wanting to get involved in your field?
Join now! This particular field is rapidly expanding at the moment, and there’s a lot of potential for people with good ideas – in particular between catalysis and biology. There will be a lot of big things happening in the near future so the sooner you start exploring the possibilities, the better!
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