Alec Wodtke

Research Professor

Office Location

Georg-August University Göttingen, Germany


Physical Chemistry


1981:Bachelor of Arts, Major in Chemistry, University of Uta

1986:Doctor of Philosophy in Physical Chemistry, University of California Berkeley

1981-86:Graduate Student Researcher, U.C. Berkeley

1986-88:Guest Scientist, Max Planck Institute for Fluid Dynamics, Göttingen, Germany

1991:Guest Scientist, Dept. of Physics, University of Kaiserslautern, Germany

1988-93: Asst. Professor, Dept. of Chemistry UC Santa Barbara

1993: Visisting Scientist, Catholic University of Nejmegen, the Netherlands

1993-96: Associate Professor with Tenure, Dept. of Chemistry, UC Santa Barbara

1996-2010: Full Professor, Dept. of Chemistry, UC Santa Barbara

2003-09: Chairman, Dept. of Chemistry and Biochemistry, UC Santa Barbara

2004-07: Associate Director of the Institute for Quantum and Complex Dynamics

2005-: Director, Partnership for International Research and Education – Electro Chemistry and Catalysis at Interfaces

2010: Professor Above-Scale, Dept. of Chemistry and Biochemistry, UC Santa Barbara

2010: Professor, Institute for Physical Chemistry, Georg-August University Göttingen, Germany

2010: Director and Scientific Member of the Max Planck Society for the Advancement of Science,

          Max Planck Institute for biophysical Chemistry, Göttingen, Germany


An important aspect of future research is based on advancing understanding in problems related to electronically nonadiabatic energy transfer at surfaces. Electronically non-adiabatic effects refer to Born-Oppenheimer approximation (BOA) breakdown where energy can be converted back and forth between nuclear and electronic motion. While electronically nonadiabatic interactions have been observed in other physical contexts – for example gas-phase and liquid-phase energy transfer – for molecular interactions at surfaces; they appear to be of central importance. For example, observations of electron emission from low work function surfaces resulting from collisions of highly vibrationally excited molecules give direct evidence of the conversion of internal (vibrational) energy of a molecule. Such behavior is of significant interest to energy conversion research as it represents an entirely new field of inquiry into how elementary atomic scale energy conversion processes take place, where chemical and electrical energy are intrinsically interrelated. The theoretical basis for the first-principles understanding of this class of phenomenology is still in its infancy. Thus, new experiments motivate new theoretical developments and vice versa. Furthermore, as our understanding of such elementary energy conversion processes improves, we may predict behavior and attempt to exploit our new knowledge to create conditions for unexpected new kinds of energy conversion.


Rahinov I, Cooper R, Bartels C, Matsiev D, Auerbach DJ and Wodtke AM (2011) Quantifying the break-down of the Born-Oppenheimer approximation in surface chemistry. Perspective Article for Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics, DOI: 10.1039/clcp20356h.

Larue J, Schäfer T, Matsiev D, Velarde L, Auerbach DJ and Wodtke AM (2011) Vibrationally promoted electron emission at a metal surface: Electron kinetic energy distributions. Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics 13, 978-99 (2011).

Nahler H, Larue J, White J, Auerbach DJ and Wodtke AM (2008) Inverse velocity dependence of vibrationally promoted electron emission from a metal surface. Science 321, 1191-1194.

Ran Q, Matsiev D, Auerbach DJ and Wodtke AM (2007) Change of vibrational excitation mechanism in HCl/Au collisions with surface temperature: transition from electronically adiabatic to non-adiabatic behavior. Physical Review Letters 98, 237601.

White J, Chen J, Matsiev D, Auerbach DJ and Wodtke AM (2005) Conversion of large amplitude vibration to electron excitation at a metal surface. Nature 433, 503-505.