surface diffusion (rus. поверхностная диффузия) — process involving (as in the case of bulk diffusion) the movement of particles (atoms, molecules or atomic clusters) occurring at solid material surfaces within the first layer of atoms (molecules) or at top of this layer.


Both atoms being a part of the solid and adsorbed particles (atoms, molecules or clusters) can move by means of surface diffusion. Typically, surface particles become mobile due to random thermal fluctuations of, usually, atoms or molecules. In the presence of a concentration gradient (surface concentration), random wandering of a large number of particles leads to an average diffusion motion in the opposite direction to that of the gradient.

The diffusion process is affected by many factors, such as the interaction between the diffusing particles, the formation of surface phases (surface reconstructions), the presence of defects, etc. Surface diffusion plays a decisive role in the growth of thin films, the formation of nanostructures on the surface of the substrate and sintering of ceramics.


  • Zotov Andrey V.
  • Saranin Alexander A.


  1. Oura K. et al. Surface Science: An Introduction // Springer, 2010 - 452 pp.
  2. Seebauer H. P. E.G., Jung M. Y. L. Surface diffusion on metals, semiconductors, and insulators // Physics of covered solid surfaces / Ed. by H. P. Bonzel. — Berlin: Springer, 2001. Ch. 3.11.
  3. Surface diffusion// Physical encyclopedia/ Ed. by Prokhorov A.M. — Moscow.: Sovetskaja ehnciklopedija, 1988. P. 644.

Contact us