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Novel NIST process is a low-cost route to ultrathin platinum films
Date:12/13/2012

A research group at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has developed a relatively simple, fast and effective method of depositing uniform, ultrathin layers of platinum atoms on a surface.* The new process exploits an unexpected feature of electrodeposition of platinumif you drive the reaction much more strongly than usual, a new reaction steps in to shuts down the metal deposition process, allowing an unprecedented level of control of the film thickness.

Platinum is a widely used industrial catalystin automobile catalytic converters and hydrogen fuel cellsas well as a key component in microelectronics, so the discovery may have widespread application in the design and manufacture of platinum-based devices.

The metal is rare, and hence very pricey, so materials engineers try to use it sparingly as a thin layer on a substrate. They'd like to be able to control the deposition process down to uniform, single layers of atoms. Unfortunately, platinum doesn't always cooperate.

The model system studied at NISTdepositing a platinum layer on gold by electroplatingdemonstrates the challenging nature of the problem. A voltage is applied to drive the deposition of platinum from an electrode onto the gold surface in an aqueous solution. Normally, this leads to a patchy and rough surface rather than the desired smooth and even layer of platinum, because platinum tends to attach first to any defects on the gold surface, and then tends to attach to itself, rather than the gold.

The NIST team has found that increasing the voltage, the driving force of the reaction, far higher than normal to the point where the water molecules start to break down and hydrogen ions form, leads to an unexpected and useful result. The hydrogen quickly forms a layer covering the freshly deposited platinum islands and completely quenches further metal deposition. Using a battery of analytic techniques, including a quartz crystal microbalance,
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Contact: Michael Baum
michael.baum@nist.gov
301-975-2763
National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
Source:Eurekalert  

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