The Atomic scale structure of liquid metal–electrolyte interfaces
Electrochemical interfaces between immiscible liquids have lately received renewed interest, both for gaining fundamental insight as well as for applications in nanomaterial synthesis. In this feature article we demonstrate that the atomic scale structure of these previously inaccessible interfaces nowadays can be explored by in situ synchrotron based X-ray scattering techniques. Exemplary studies of a prototypical electrochemical system – a liquid mercury electrode in pure NaCl solution – reveal that the liquid metal is terminated by a well-defined atomic layer. This layering decays on length scales of 0.5 nm into the Hg bulk and displays a potential and temperature dependent behaviour that can be explained by electrocapillary effects and contributions of the electronic charge distribution on the electrode. In similar studies of nanomaterial growth, performed for the electrochemical deposition of PbFBr, a complex nucleation and growth behaviour is found, involving a crystalline precursor layer prior to the 3D crystal growth. Operando X-ray scattering measurements provide detailed data on the processes of nanoscale film formation.
- This article is part of the themed collections: 2016 Nanoscale HOT Article Collection and Electrochemical processes at the nanoscale: from fundamentals to applications