Electrical surface properties of nanoporous alumina membranes: influence of nanochannels’ curvature, roughness and composition studied via electrokinetic experiments†
Among classical nanoporous oxide membranes, anodic aluminum oxide (AAO) membranes, made of non-connected, parallel and ordered nanochannels, are very interesting nanoporous model systems widely used for multiple applications. Since most of these applications involve local phenomena at the nanochannel surface, the fine description of the electrical surface behavior in aqueous solution is thus of primordial interest. Here, we use an original experimental approach combining several electrokinetic techniques (tangential and transverse streaming potential as well as electrophoretic mobility experiments) to measure the ζ-potential and determine the surface isoelectric points (IEPs) of several AAOs having different characteristic sizes and compositions. Using such an approach, all the different surfaces available in AAOs can be probed: outer surfaces (top and bottom planes), pore wall surfaces (i.e., inner surfaces) and surfaces created by the grinding of the AAOs. We find clear IEP differences between the outer, pore wall and ground surfaces and discuss these in terms of nanochannel and surface morphology (curvature and roughness) and of modifications of the chemical environment of the surface hydroxyl groups. These results highlight the heterogeneities between the different surfaces of these AAO membranes and emphasize the necessity to combine complementary electrokinetic techniques to properly understand the material, an approach which can be extended to many nanoporous systems.