Surface chemistry can be defined as the study of chemical reactions at the material surfaces and interfaces. The main aim of surface chemistry is to controllably modify the chemical structure or composition (or the nanostructure) of a surface by incorporation of selected elements or functional groups in order to produce various desired effects or improvements in the properties of the surface or the interface. Surface modification can be achieved by chemical or physical methods, such as; (i) chemical reactions involving the surface atoms or molecules, (ii) chemical vapor deposition, (iii) ion implantation, (iv) etching, (vi) electroplating, and (vii) coating.
Surface physics can be defined as the study of physical changes that occur at the surfaces and interfaces. It may sometime overlap with surface chemistry and engineering. Some of the phenomena investigated by surface physics include; (i) electronic and magnetic properties, (ii) surface phonons and plasmons (iii) the emission and tunneling of electrons on the surface layer, (iv) surface hydrophobicity, (v) surface morphology or nanostructure, (vi) tissue and blood compatibility.
Surface engineering is the branch of material science (metals, polymers, ceramics, composites) which deals with the surface properties of solid materials. It has applications in chemical engineering (e. g. catalysts), mechanical engineering (e. g. corrosion prevention, friction reduction) and electrical engineering (e. g. semiconductor manufacturing). The surface of the materials are in continuous contact with the surrounding environment, such as radiation from the sun, air and oxygen and moisture and water. This interaction may degrade or change the surface over time. Surface engineering involves modifying or optimizing the properties of the surface in order to reduce the degradation over time. Surface engineering play very critical roles in the automotive, aerospace, electronics, biomedical, textile, petrochemical, machine tools and construction industries.