Skip to content

John Z. Larese



The theme of Professor Larese’s research is the investigation of the physical and chemical phenomena that take place on solid surfaces and within porous media. These experimental and theoretical studies are multidisciplinary and include materials synthesis, thermodynamics, computational modeling and neutron and x-ray scattering. Our primary focus concerns understanding the microscopic underpinnings of what determines the structure, dynamics and surface mediated reaction of molecules on pure and decorated metal oxide materials. The experiments we perform used a broad array of sophisticated experimental techniques both laboratory and large facility based such as x-ray and neutron diffraction and inelastic neutron spectroscopy. My group specializes in characterizing molecular films that are one layer thick to illuminate how the physico chemical properties that occur in two dimensions (2D) differ from those in three dimensions (3D). These studies are relevant to a number of important energy related technologies such as gas separation and storage, heterogeneous catalysis, lubrication and corrosion. Our current projects involve the synthesis of well-defined chemically-controlled, nanometer size, pure and doped, metal oxide particles with novel optoelectronic, chemical, magnetic, or mechanical properties. Biomimetic studies including the hydroxylation of silk proteins and sorption in porous dipeptides with well-defined channels and the development of sensors for analytical chemistry applications. One environmentally related study involves chemically active systems (like SO2 and H2S adsorption) which elucidated the surface chemistry of SO2 on MgO surfaces a technologically important process used in atmospheric pollution control. Our synthetic work focusses on experimental the physical, chemical and hydrodynamic principles that govern the production of metal oxide particles of controlled size and chemical composition using a novel process that Walter Kunnmann (Brookhaven National Laboratory, retired) and I have invented and received a US patent for. We use this process to investigating the production and control of nanometer sized whiskers and wires of semiconductors and insulators with interesting chemical optical and electronic properties. The long-range goal of these studies is to develop a sound basis for the development of novel, advanced materials synthesis and control. Our computational modelling focusses on using molecular dynamic simulations to characterize the experimental wetting properties of experimental molecular adsorption at interfaces and to provide guidance for the analysis of our surface x-ray and neutron scattering structural and dynamical investigations. I moved my laboratories and group to UTK because as an experienced neutron scattering scientist I spearheaded an effort to propose, fund, design and construct one of the 22 instruments at the Spallation Neutron Source located at ORNL. The instrument is called VISION and is the neutron scattering analogue of a Raman/IR spectrometer with simultaneous diffraction capabilities (including pair distribution function PDF characterization). It is a best in class instrument with >1000 times the performance of similar instruments throughout the world.


John Z. Larese received his Ph.D. degree in physics from Wesleyan University, where he studied adsorbed hydrocarbon films on graphite using pulse -NMR techniques with R. J. Rollefson.   As an NSF postdoctoral fellow at Penn State University he worked with the late D. R. Frankl using helium atom scattering techniques to study the structure and dynamics of atomic films on alkali halide, metal oxide and graphite surfaces. It was during this period that he first became interested in surface diffraction and diffusion. In 1985, Larese joined Brookhaven National Laboratory, where as a senior scientist he led the Materials Chemistry-Neutron Scattering group and continued to pursue his interests in surface adsorption and the properties of materials employing neutron scattering methods.  In 2001, he joined the Chemistry faculty at the University of Tennesee as a Professor with a joint appointment at ORNL.  Larese was the driving force and PI for the VISION neutron vibrational spectrometer now operating at the Spallation Neutron Source. In November 2014 he was elected a fellow of the AAAS.


Ph.D., Wesleyan University (1982)

Awards and Recognitions

DOE BES Sustained Outstanding Research Award
DOE BES Outstanding Accomplishment Award
AAAS Fellow


Adsorption of Cyclopentane on MgO(100), Hexagonal Boron Nitride, and Graphite Basal Planes: A Thermodynamic and Modeling Study. Fatema Wahida and J. Z. Larese. J. Phys. Chem. C, 2018, 122 (44), pp 25301–25313
DOI: 10.1021/acs.jpcc.8b06487

High-Resolution Volumetric Adsorption and Molecular Dynamics of the n-Alkanes on the Surface of Hexagonal Boron Nitride. Nicholas Strange and J. Z. Larese.*†‡§ 
J. Phys. Chem. C, 2018, 122(37), pp 21308–21321.
DOI: 10.1021/acs.jpcc.8b04278

The Mixing Behavior of Alkanes Adsorbed on Hexagonal Boron Nitride. Matthew Forster, Julia E. ParkerAkira InabaClaire A. MurrayNicholas A. Strange, John Z. Larese and Thomas Arnold.J. Phys. Chem. C, 2016, 120(45), pp 25796–25805.
DOI: 10.1021/acs.jpcc.6b07701

Thermodynamic and Modeling Study of n-Octane, n-Nonane, and n-Decane Films on MgO(100). Nicholas Strange, David Fernández-Cañoto, and J. Z. Larese.J. Phys. Chem. C, 2016, 120 (33), pp 18631–18641.
DOI: 10.1021/acs.jpcc.6b05951

Highly Efficient Selective Hydrogenation of Cinnamaldehyde to Cinnamyl Alcohol over Gold Supported on Zinc Oxide Materials. Hangning ChenDavid A. Cullen, and J. Z. Larese.*J. Phys. Chem. C, 2015, 119(52), pp 28885–28894.
DOI: 10.1021/acs.jpcc.5b07823

Pentane Adsorbed on MgO(100) Surfaces: A Thermodynamic, Neutron, and Modeling Study. Richard E. Cook, Thomas Arnold, Nicholas Strange, Mark Telling and J. Z. Larese, J. Phys. Chem. C 2015, 119 (1), pp 332–339.

Thermodynamic and Modeling Study of Thin n-Heptane Films Adsorbed on Magnesium Oxide (100) Surfaces. D. Fernández-Cañoto and J. Z. Larese. J. Phys. Chem. C 2014, 118 (7), 3451–3458.

Inelastic Neutron Scattering (INS) Observations of Rotational Tunneling within Partially Deuterated Methane Monolayers Adsorbed on MgO(100) Surfaces. A. Hicks and J. Z. Larese. Chemical Phys. 427, 71-81 (2013).

Initial Stages of Square Lattice Stacks of CH4/MgO(100). L. W. Bruch and J. Z. Larese. Phys. Rev.B 85, 035401-035408 (2012).

Investigation of the Behavior of Ethylene Molecular Films using High-Resolution Adsorption Isotherms and Neutron Scattering. A. Barbour, M. Telling, and J. Z. Larese. Langmuir 26, 8113-8121 (2010).

Neutron Investigations of Rotational Motions in Monolayer and Multilayer Films at the Interface of MgO and Graphite Surfaces. J.Z. Larese, T. Arnold, A. Barbour and L.R. Frazier, Langmuir 25, 4078-4083 (2009).

Direct Observation of H2 Binding to a Metal Oxide Surface. J. Larese, T. Arnold, L. Frazier, R. Hinde and A. Ramirez-Cuesta, Phys. Rev. Lett. 101, 165302 (2008).

Electronic Structure Investigation of Surface−Adsorbate and Adsorbate−Adsorbate Interactions in Multilayers of CH4 on MgO(100). M.L. Drummond, B.G. Sumpter, W.A. Shelton and J.Z. Larese, J. Phys. Chem. C 2007, 111(1), pp 966-976. Cover Article

Neutron Scattering. J.Z. Larese in Applications of Physical Methods to Inorganic and Bioinorganic Chemistry, R.A. Scott and C.M. Lukehart, eds. (Wiley, 2007).

Structure of an n -butane monolayer adsorbed on magnesium oxide (100). T. Arnold, S. Chanaa, S.M. Clarke, R.E. Cook and J.Z. Larese, Phys. Rev. B 74, 085421 (2006).

Novel method for the generation of high density (pure and doped) magnesium vapors which bypass the liquidus phase. W. Kunnmann and J.Z. Larese, U.S. Patent No. 6,179,897 (granted January 30, 2001).

Additional Information

Lab Address: JIAM

JIAM and JINS Faculty, Physical Division Spokesperson

Contact Information

  • 619 Buehler Hall
  • 1316 Circle Drive
  • Knoxville, TN 37996-1600
  • Phone: 865-974-3429
  • E-mail:

The flagship campus of the University of Tennessee System and partner in the Tennessee Transfer Pathway.