The surface charge and topography of human hair are visualized synchronously at the nanoscale using scanning ion conductance microscopy (SICM), a scanning nanopipette probe technique that uses local ion conductance currents to image the physicochemical properties of interfaces. By combining SICM data with finite element method (FEM) simulations that solve for ion transport at the nanopipette under bias, one is able to quantitatively correlate colocated surface charge and topography. The hair samples studied herein, from a 25-year-old Caucasian male with light hair (as an exemplar), reveal that untreated hair, in areas ca. 1 cm from the root, has a fairly uniform negative charge density of ca. −15 mC/cm–2 (in pH 6.8 aqueous solution), with some higher magnitude negative values localized near the boundaries between hair cuticles. Common chemical treatments result in varying degrees of charge heterogeneity. A bleach treatment produces some highly negatively charged localized regions (−80 to −100 mC/cm–2 at pH 6.8), due to hair damage, while a chemical conditioner treatment causes an overall increase in the homogeneity of the surface charge, together with a shift in the surface charge to positive values. Bleached surfaces are temporarily repaired to some extent through the use of a conditioner, as judged by the surface charge values. Finally, SICM is able to detect differences in the surface charge density of hair at different distances from the root (equivalent to hair age). Presently, the assessment of hair surface charge mainly relies on zeta-potential measurements which lack spatial resolution, among other drawbacks. In contrast, SICM enables quantitative surface charge mapping that should be beneficial in deepening understanding of the physicochemical properties of hair and lead to the rational development of new treatments and the assessment of their efficacy at the nanoscale. Given the widespread interest in the surface charge properties of interfaces, this work further demonstrates that SICM should generally become an important characterization tool for surface analytical chemists.
Correlative Electrochemical Microscopy of Li‐Ion (De)intercalation at a Series of Individual LiMn2O4 Particles
The redox activity (Li‐ion intercalation/deintercalation) of a series of individual LiMn2O4particles of known geometry and (nano)structure, within an array, is determined using a correlative electrochemical microscopy strategy. Cyclic voltammetry (current–voltage curve, I–E) and galvanostatic charge/discharge (voltage–time curve, E–t) are applied at the single particle level, using scanning electrochemical cell microscopy (SECCM), together with co‐location scanning electron microscopy that enables the corresponding particle size, morphology, crystallinity, and other factors to be visualized. This study identifies a wide spectrum of activity of nominally similar particles and highlights how subtle changes in particle form can greatly impact electrochemical properties. SECCM is well‐suited for assessing single particles and constitutes a combinatorial method that will enable the rational design and optimization of battery electrode materials.
An sp2 Patterned Boron Doped Diamond Electrode for the Simultaneous Detection of Dissolved Oxygen and pH
A hybrid sp2-sp3 electrochemical sensor comprising patterned regions of nondiamond-carbon (sp2) in a boron doped diamond (sp3) matrix is described for the simultaneous voltammetric detection of dissolved oxygen (DO) and pH in buffered aqueous solutions. Using a laser micropatterning process it is possible to write mechanically robust regions of sp2 carbon into a BDD electrode. These regions both promote the electrocatalytic reduction of oxygen and facilitate the proton coupled electron transfer of quinone groups, integrated into the surface of the sp2carbon. In this way, in one voltammetric sweep (time of measurement ∼4 s) it is possible to determine both the DO concentration and solution pH. By varying the sp2 pattern the response can be optimized toward both analytes. Using a closely spaced sp2 microspot array, a linear response toward DO, across the range 0.0 to 8.0 mg L–1 (0.0 to 0.25 mM; sensitivity = −8.77 × 10–8 A L mg–1, R2 = 0.9991) and pH range 4–10 (sensitivity = 59.7 mV pH–1, R2 = 0.9983) is demonstrated. The electrode is also capable of measuring both DO concentration and pH in the more complex buffered environment of blood. Finally, we show how the peak position for ORR is independent of pH, and thus via measurement of the difference in ORR and pH peak position, internal referencing is possible. Such electrodes show great promise for use in applications ranging from biomedical sensing to water analysis.
Scanning Ion Conductance Microscopy: Quantitative Nanopipette Delivery–Substrate Electrode Collection Measurements and Mapping
Scanning ion conductance microscopy (SICM) is becoming a powerful multifunctional tool for probing and analyzing surfaces and interfaces. This work outlines methodology for the quantitative controlled delivery of ionic redox-active molecules from a nanopipette to a substrate electrode, with a high degree of spatial and temporal precision. Through control of the SICM bias applied between a quasi-reference counter electrode (QRCE) in the SICM nanopipette probe and a similar electrode in bulk solution, it is shown that ionic redox species can be held inside the nanopipette, and then pulse-delivered to a defined region of a substrate positioned beneath the nanopipette. A self-referencing hopping mode imaging protocol is implemented, where reagent is released in bulk solution (reference measurement) and near the substrate surface at each pixel in an image, with the tip and substrate currents measured throughout. Analysis of the tip and substrate current data provides an improved understanding of mass transport and nanoscale delivery in SICM and a new means of synchronously mapping electrode reactivity, surface topography, and charge. Experiments on Ru(NH3)63+ reduction to Ru(NH3)62+ and dopamine oxidation in aqueous solution at a carbon fiber ultramicroelectrode (UME), used as the substrate, illustrate these aspects. Finite element method (FEM) modeling provides quantitative understanding of molecular delivery in SICM. The approach outlined constitutes a new methodology for electrode mapping and provides improved insights on the use of SICM for controlled delivery to interfaces generally.
Scanning electrochemical cell microscopy: A versatile method for highly localised corrosion related measurements on metal surfaces
The development of tools that can probe corrosion related phenomena at the (sub)microscale is recognized to be increasingly important in order to understand the surface structural factors (grain orientation, inclusions etc.) that control the (electro)chemical stability (corrosion susceptibility, pitting, passivity etc.) of metal surfaces. Herein we consider the application of scanning electrochemical cell microscopy (SECCM), a relatively new member of the electrochemical droplet cell (EDC) family, for corrosion research and demonstrate the power of this technique for resolving structure and activity at the (sub)microscale. Hundreds of spatially-resolved (2 μm droplet size) potentiodynamic polarization experiments have been carried out on the several hours timescale and correlated to complementary structural information from electron backscatter diffraction(EBSD) and energy dispersive x-ray spectroscopy (EDS) in order to determine the effect of grain orientation and inclusions on electrochemical processes at low carbon steel in neutral solution (10 mM KNO3). Through this approach, it has been shown unequivocally that for the low index planes, anodic currents in the passive region (an indicator of corrosion susceptibility) are greatest on (101) planes compared to (100) and (111) planes. Furthermore, individual sub-micron MnS inclusions have been probed and shown to undergo active dissolution followed by rapid repassivation. This study demonstrates the high versatility of SECCM and the considerable potential of this technique for addressing structure-activity problems in corrosion and electromaterials science.
A scanning electrochemical droplet cell technique has been employed to screen the intrinsic electrocatalytic hydrogen evolution reaction (HER) activity of hexagonal boron nitride (h-BN) nanosheets supported on different metal substrates (Cu and Au). Local (spatially-resolved) voltammetry and Tafel analysis reveal that electronic interaction with the underlying metal substrate plays a significant role in modulating the electrocatalytic activity of h-BN, with Au-supported h-BN exhibiting significantly enhanced HER charge-transfer kinetics (exchange current is ca. two orders of magnitude larger) compared to Cu-supported h-BN, making the former material the superior support in a catalytic sense.