Correlation of surface site formation to nanoisland growth in the electrochemical roughening of Pt(111)

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Platinum plays a central role in a variety of electrochemical devices and its practical use depends on the prevention of electrode degradation. However, understanding the underlying atomic processes under conditions of repeated oxidation and reduction inducing irreversible surface structure changes has proved challenging. Here, we examine the correlation between the evolution of the electrochemical signal of Pt(111) and its surface roughening by simultaneously performing cyclic voltammetry and in situ electrochemical scanning tunnelling microscopy (EC-STM). We identify a ‘nucleation and early growth’ regime of nanoisland formation, and a ‘late growth’ regime after island coalescence, which continues up to at least 170 cycles. The correlation analysis shows that each step site that is created in the ‘late growth’ regime contributes equally strongly to both the electrochemical and the roughness evolution. In contrast, in the ‘nucleation and early growth’ regime, created step sites contribute to the roughness, but not to the electrochemical signal.

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Fig. 1: Cyclic voltammograms of consecutive oxidation–reduction cycles.
Fig. 2: STM images after different numbers of oxidation–reduction cycles.
Fig. 3: Height lines extracted from the STM images in Fig. 2.
Fig. 4: Height-difference correlation functions (C2(r)) as a function of ORC number.
Fig. 5: Correlation between electrochemical and STM data.


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The authors acknowledge LVH Coatings for supplying their Clearclad electrophoretic paint. This work is financially supported by the European Commission Horizon 2020 - Research and Innovation Framework Programme (Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions Individual Fellowship awarded to Y.-F.H., No. 661145, DYNECAT).

Author information

All authors contributed to the design of the experiment and the interpretation of the data. L.J., Y.-F.H. and M.J.R. performed the experimental work. L.J. performed the data analysis and manuscript preparation with the input of M.J.R. and M.T.M.K.

Correspondence to Marc T. M. Koper or Marcel J. Rost.

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Supplementary Figures 1–6, Supplementary References 1–3

Video - Movie of EC-STM experiment

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Jacobse, L., Huang, Y., Koper, M.T.M. et al. Correlation of surface site formation to nanoisland growth in the electrochemical roughening of Pt(111). Nature Mater 17, 277–282 (2018) doi:10.1038/s41563-017-0015-z

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