Stability at the surface

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Science  05 Dec 2014:
Vol. 346, Issue 6214, pp. 1186-1187
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa1543

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Metal oxides are ubiquitous as minerals in the terrestrial environment, as well as in a variety of technologically important structures such as electronic devices and heterogeneous catalysts. Within these various contexts, interfaces between oxides and gases, liquids, and solids drive many critically important phenomena ranging from the uptake of contaminants in groundwater by redox-active minerals to the switching of the millions of transistors found in every cell phone and computer. Function is tied to structure. Therefore, fundamental understanding of the structure of oxide surfaces and interfaces is crucial to the comprehension of a plethora of phenomena involving this broad class of materials (see the figure). On page 1215 of this issue, Bliem et al. (1) report a remarkable structural insight into the surface of the (001)-oriented crystal face of magnetite (Fe3O4), the first magnetic material discovered in antiquity.