A study of dynamic nanoscale corrosion initiation events using HS-AFM
Atomic force microscopes (AFMs) are capable of high-resolution mapping of structures and the measurement of mechanical properties on nanometre scales within gaseous, liquid and vacuum environments. The contact mode high-speed AFM (HS-AFM) developed at Bristol Nano Dynamics Ltd. operates at speeds that are orders of magnitude faster than conventional AFMs, and is capable of capturing multiple frames per second. This allows for direct observation of dynamic events in real-time, with nanometre lateral resolution and subatomic height resolution. HS-AFM is a valuable tool for the imaging of nanoscale corrosion initiation events, such as metastable pitting, grain boundary (GB) dissolution and short crack formation during stress corrosion cracking (SCC). Within this study HS-AFM was combined with SEM and FIB milling to produce a multifaceted picture of localised corrosion events occurring on thermally sensitised AISI 304 stainless steel in an aqueous solution of 1% sodium chloride (NaCl). HS-AFM measurements were performed in situ by imaging within a custom built liquid cell with parallel electrochemical control. The high resolution of the HS-AFM allowed for measurements to be performed at individual reaction sites, i.e. at specific GB carbide surfaces. Topographic maps of the sample surface allowed for accurate measurements of the dimensions of pits formed. Using these measurements it was possible to calculate, and subsequently model, the volumes of metal reacting with respect to time, and so the current densities and ionic fluxes at work. In this manner, the local electrochemistry at nanoscale reaction sites may be reconstructed.
- This article is part of the themed collection: Electrochemistry at nano-interfaces