Atomic force microscope imaging and force measurements at electrified and actively corroding interfaces: Challenges and novel cell design

Valtiner, Markus; Ankah, Genesis Ngwa; Bashir, Asif; Renner, Frank Uwe
February 2011
Review of Scientific Instruments;Feb2011, Vol. 82 Issue 2, p023703
Academic Journal
We report the design of an improved electrochemical cell for atomic force microscope measurements in corrosive electrochemical environments. Our design improvements are guided by experimental requirements for studying corrosive reactions such as selective dissolution, dealloying, pitting corrosion, and/or surface and interface forces at electrified interfaces. Our aim is to examine some of the limitations of typical electrochemical scanning probe microscopy (SPM) experiments and in particular to outline precautions and cell-design elements, which must necessarily be taken into account in order to obtain reliable experimental results. In particular, we discuss electrochemical requirements for typical electrochemical SPM experiments and introduce novel design features to avoid common issues such as crevice formations; we discuss the choice of electrodes and contaminations from ions of reference electrodes. We optimize the cell geometry and introduce standard samples for electrochemical AFM experiments. We have tested the novel design by performing force-distance spectroscopy as a function of the applied electrochemical potential between a bare gold electrode surface and a SAM-coated AFM tip. Topography imaging was tested by studying the well-known dealloying process of a Cu3Au(111) surface up to the critical potential. Our design improvements should be equally applicable to in situ electrochemical scanning tunneling microscope cells.


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