UVA’s materials science and engineering community congratulates Petra Reinke, professor of materials science and engineering, on her elevation to fellow in the American Vacuum Society.

This honor recognizes Reinke’s contributions to materials science at surfaces of relevance to electronic and magnetic applications and oxidation of technical alloys, and her lifelong, impactful commitment to the society. Reinke will accept her award at the society’s 68th International Symposium and Exhibition, to be convened this November in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Members of the American Vacuum Society, or AVS, conduct research in surface science, thin-film growth, and materials processing for the semiconductor industry.

Reinke has dedicated herself to surface science and research with 2D materials, solving problems associated with oxidation corrosion and electronic materials, two research strengths of UVA’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering.

“Traditional surface science works with a single crystal, a beautifully defined surface; you know where every single atom sits in that surface, but real surfaces are more complicated” Reinke said. Reinke and members of her nanomaterials and surface science research group seek to better understand how corrosion processes play out in real-world scenarios — environments in which materials composed of multiple elements must perform. Her group builds model systems to capture the atomic scale processes and reactions.

Reinke’s research often involves experiments conducted at partner institutions’ synchrotron facilities such as the National Synchrotron Light Source at Brookhaven National Laboratory, or MaxIV at Lund University, which enable Reinke to capture the dynamics of materials during operation. “We can see little particles of oxide pop up on a material’s surface and analyze how that happens,” Reinke said.

Understanding the mechanisms of oxidation corrosion leads to better prediction and ultimately offers a short-cut in materials design. “You don’t want to do experiments for 30 years to get a new alloy or force it to perform in a better way,” Reinke said. “You would like to implement that with computational processes, but first we need to study behavior at the atomic scale.” A new publication in npj Materials Degradation on the oxidation of Ni-based superalloys uncovered the importance of alloy surface chemistry in the initial oxidation steps.

Reinke is also intrigued by 2D materials’ electronic structure and how to establish 2D materials in applications relevant to electronic devices and the hydrogen economy through doping and defect engineering. “You want one material that you can manipulate in specific ways,” Reinke said. “The goal is to have a specific property, like a magnetic 2D material, or maybe you want to use the defects to form specific reactions, to manipulate the material to produce desired properties.”

Like many of her AVS colleagues, Reinke is on the hunt for a better catalyst. Seminal research in catalysis was driven by the need to feed a growing and urbanizing population, to develop fertilizers for higher crop yields. Nowadays, the desire to realize a net-zero carbon future spurs innovation, with research in catalysis applied to energy processes such as fuel cells and batteries.

Advancing this aim, Reinke is conducting joint research with Ashleigh Baber, associate professor of chemistry at James Madison University, to test economically viable materials for hydrogen fuel cells. They are exploring whether new 2D materials can replace platinum in the fuel cells’ inner workings.

Reinke is looking forward to the AVS annual conference, not only for the inspiration provided by the science, but also to see two group members deliver their first conference presentations. Pittsburgh is hosting the society’s first in-person gathering since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. UVA MSE was well represented at AVS ’66, the 2019 international symposium and exhibition, where they presented papers and earned top honors.

Reinke’s election to fellow recognizes her efforts to build a vibrant community. With other members of the AVS diversity, equity and inclusion committee, Reinke helped launch a mentoring program that pairs graduate students and early career scientists and professors with more senior AVS members to get an anchor point and build their network. She led the Surface Science Division through the COVID-19 pandemic, served on the committee that manages the AVS student award program, and has participated in AVS’s e-talks program.

“I’m honored to become a fellow of a community that has supported my professional growth and in which I’ve been involved for many years,” Reinke said.

Reinke is grateful for the support provided by her colleague Petra Rudolf, professor of experimental solid state physics and dean of graduate studies at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, who championed Reinke’s AVS Fellow nomination. Reinke and Rudolph have worked together since the early 2000s, including early work on fullerene molecules. In 2019, Reinke spent her sabbatical leave at the University of Groningen/Zernike Institute for Advanced Materials, conducting experiments on 2-D materials such as graphene and studying the transmission of molecules through nanoscale defects.

Petra Reinke in lab

Petra Reinke, professor of materials science and engineering, has dedicated herself to surface science and research with 2D materials, solving problems associated with oxidation corrosion and electronic materials.