Adhesion, heterogeneous catalysis, electrochemistry, and many other important processes and properties are driven by interactions at surfaces and interfaces. Vibrational sum frequency generation spectroscopy (VSFG) is an increasingly popular analytical technique because it can provide information about the nature and physical orientation of functional groups at these surfaces and interfaces. Analysis of VSFG data can be complicated by the presence of SFG signal that is not associated with a resonant vibration. This nonresonant sum frequency generation (NR-SFG) signal can interfere with the resonant signal and influence the detected spectrum. Methods have been developed to remove NR-SFG signal; however, these methods tend to be complicated and expensive. In fact many SFG practitioners do not have the ability to remove NR-SFG signal components, and systems designed to remove NR-SFG signal contributions may not be able to do so for some materials. We have worked to help develop a better understanding of NR-SFG. As part of this work, a better understanding of the temporal and phase behavior of NR-SFG signal has been developed, based on the behavior of NR-SFG signal from Si(111) wafers. This work calls into question some assumptions underlying nonresonant suppression methods based on time-domain detection. A new method for nondestructively testing (NDT) materials has been developed that uses nonresonant second harmonic generation, the degenerate form of SFG. This new NDT technology has the potential to detect several forms of material damage, such as aluminum sensitization, and plastic deformation of materials, which are largely invisible to current NDT technologies. Methods for extracting functional group orientation from VSFG data that contains NR-SFG contributions are also demonstrated and used to investigate how the surface of high density polyethylene changes in response to mechanical deformation. This work shows that the inability to remove NR-SFG contributions from VSFG spectra does not mean that these instruments cannot be used to make important discoveries. It simply means that NR-SFG contributions must be properly understood and accounted for during experimental design, and kept in mind during the analysis of VSFG spectra.



College and Department

Physical and Mathematical Sciences; Chemistry and Biochemistry



Date Submitted


Document Type





surface science, sum frequency spectroscopy, nonresonant sum frequency generation, high density polyethylene, nondestructive testing.

Included in

Chemistry Commons