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Department of Chemistry
The Johns Hopkins University
138 Remsen Hall
3400 N. Charles Street
Baltimore, MD 21218

John Toscano
Department Chair

Phone 410-516-7429
Fax 410-516-8420


Howard Fairbrother

Experimental/Analytical Surface
Chemistry/Enviornmental Chemistry

Johns Hopkins University
New Chemistry Building 216
3400 North Charles St.
Baltimore, MD 21218

Phone:  410.516.4328
Fairbrother Group Website

PhD - Northwestern University
Post Doctoral Fellow - University of California, Berkeley

Dr. Fairbrother’s research focuses on surface chemistry, with an emphasis on the role of interfacial phenomena in (i) the deposition of nanostructured materials and (ii) the environmental fate and impact of carbon based nanomaterials in aquatic environments

Deposition of nanostructured materials: One area of active research in our group is the study of complex, technologically important materials processes that occur in low pressure environments through the use of model systems. Our research activities are currently focused on developing an artificial plasma environment to study the microscopic surface processes that are collectively responsible for the deposition and structural characteristics of nano-scale carbonaceous thin films. Commercially these films are used as protective coatings in applications as diverse as biomaterials and commercial hard disks. In a related project we are also starting to examine the surface chemistry and physics associated with the electron beam induced deposition (EBID) of metallic nanostructures using organometallic precursors.

Environmental Fate and Impact of Carbon Nanotubes (CNTs): The rapid advances in nanotechnology and the increase in the global annual production rate of engineered nanomaterials has generated an urgent need to understand the behavior of different nanostructures in the environment. Amongst the various types of nanomateirals, CNTs are one of the most versatile with perhaps the widest range of potential commercial applications. In many laboratory purification and functionalization strategies used to treat CNTs and as a result of exposure to oxidizing agents within the environment oxygen-containing functional groups (e.g. carboxylic acid, hydroxyl groups) can become incorporated into the CNT surface. Using recently developed analytical techniques we are studying the effect of these surface oxides on the stability and chemical properties (e.g. sorption interactions with contaminants) of CNTs in aquatic environments.

Experimental Approach: Throughout our studies we employ a wide array of surface analytical techniques, including Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM), X-ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy (XPS), Mass Spectrometry, Infrared Spectroscopy (IR) and Sum Frequency Generation Spectroscopy (SFG). Recently we have also been using Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM) and Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM) for materials characterization. A number of projects in the Fairbrother group are highly collaborative and involve significant interactions with the Department of Geography and Environmental Engineering and the Department of Materials Science and Engineering.