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Although very light weight, hydrogen atoms have a high probability to be absorbed by a metal surface upon collision. In this video, OLIVER BÜNERMANN explains collision experiments carried out to determine why this is the case. During the experiment, they shot a hydrogen atom beam at a gold surface and at an insulator, measured the speed and direction of the atoms bouncing back from each surface and compared the results. The hydrogen atoms scattered from the gold surface suffered a greater energy loss than the one scattered from the insulator. This difference indicates that translational energy carried in the hydrogen atom is transferred into electronic excitations in the metal leading to the high probability of absorption. The experiment results match the predictions of the theoretical model explained by Alexander Kandratsenka.


Oliver Bünermann is the Leader of the atom-surface scattering dynamics Research Group at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry and the University of Göttingen Institute for Physical Chemistry (Germany). After receiving his diploma and PhD from the Faculty of Physics at the University of Bielefeld, Bünermann went on to do post-doctoral research at the Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg and the University of California, Berkley.

As the leader of the atom-surface scattering dynamics research group, Bünermann investigates hydrogen atom scattering through collision experiments. This will provide the background for developing new theoretical approaches to surface chemistry.


University of Göttingen (Georg-August-Universität Göttingen)

Founded in 1737, Georg-August-Universität Göttingen is a research university of international renown with strong focuses in research-led teaching. The University is distinguished by the rich diversity of its subject spectrum particularly in the humanities, its excellent facilities for the pursuit of scientific research, and the outstanding quality of the areas that define its profile. From 2007 to 2012 Georg-August-Universität Göttingen was rewarded funding from the Initiative of Excellence of the German Federal and State Governments with its institutional strategy for the future entitled “Göttingen.Tradition – Innovation – Autonomy”. The University was able to realise all measures of the concept. Now Göttingen University develops the successfully established measures further to continously advance the University’s positive developments in research and teaching. ( Source )
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Original publication

Electron-Hole Pair Excitation Determines the Mechanism of Hydrogen Atom Adsorption

Bünermann Oliver, Jiang Hongyan, Dorenkamp Yvonne, Kandratsenka Alexander, Janke Svenja M., Auerbach Daniel J. and Wodtke Alec M.
Published in 2015

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