About the Institute

Surface and interface sciences in Cracow

Cracow has a long and well-established tradition in studies of surface phenomena. At the beginning of this century Marian Smoluchowski, the founder of the theory of electrokinetic phenomena worked at the Jagiellonian University. He also became world known for his studies of Brownian motion and the theory of coagulation of colloids. At the same time the chair of physical chemistry was held by L. Bruner, pupil of Berthelot and Ostwald and collaborator of Tammann and F. Haber, who started the investigations on kinetics in heterogeneous systems and catalysis. He was followed by a brilliant physical chemist B. Szyszkowski, collaborator of Ostwald, Ramsay and Arrhenius, who developed in Cracow complex studies in surface chemistry and electrochemistry. He established the mathematical expression describing the correlation between the concentration of surface active compounds and the surface tension of their solutions, known in world literature as the Szyszkowski equation. Chemistry of gas/liquid interface was then rapidly developed by his pupil and successor at the Chair of Physical Chemistry and Electrochemistry of the Jagiellonian University, B. Kamieński, known for his studies of electric fields at interfaces. In his labs, the influence of surfactant adsorption on electrical potentials of interfaces was first determined. Important contributions also were made by this school, especially Andrzej Pomianowski to the theory of flotation.

Simultaneously, other school of thinking of physical chemistry of gas/solid interfaces originated around Adam Bielański who at the University of Mining and Metallurgy, then at the Jagiellonian University initiated studies of heterogeneous catalytic reactions at transition metal oxide surfaces. This research group furnished first experimental evidences of the validity of electronic theory of catalysis and its limitations. This research was then continued by Jerzy Haber.

In the late sixties it was realized that time was ripe for an attempt to create a platform for mutual exchange of ideas between the "wet" and "dry" surface scientists, whose language began to diverge significantly. In order to fill this gap the Cracow Institute of Catalysis and Surface Chemistry was established by the Polish Academy of Sciences with the main objective to foster our knowledge of physical chemistry of gas/solid, gas/liquid and liquid/solid interfaces.