A generalized electrochemical aggregative growth mechanism
Faculty of Sciences. Physics
Journal of the American Chemical Society. - Washington, D.C.
, p. 11550-11561
University of Antwerp
The early stages of nanocrystal nucleation and growth are still an active field of research and remain unrevealed. In this work, by the combination of aberration-corrected transmission electron microscopy (TEM) and electrochemical characterization of the electrodeposition of different metals, we provide a complete reformulation of the VolmerWeber 3D island growth mechanism, which has always been accepted to explain the early stages of metal electrodeposition and thin-film growth on low-energy substrates. We have developed a Generalized Electrochemical Aggregative Growth Mechanism which mimics the atomistic processes during the early stages of thin-film growth, by incorporating nanoclusters as building blocks. We discuss the influence of new processes such as nanocluster self-limiting growth, surface diffusion, aggregation, and coalescence on the growth mechanism and morphology of the resulting nanostructures. Self-limiting growth mechanisms hinder nanocluster growth and favor coalescence driven growth. The size of the primary nanoclusters is independent of the applied potential and deposition time. The balance between nucleation, nanocluster surface diffusion, and coalescence depends on the material and the overpotential, and influences strongly the morphology of the deposits. A small extent of coalescence leads to ultraporous dendritic structures, large surface coverage, and small particle size. Contrarily, full recrystallization leads to larger hemispherical monocrystalline islands and smaller particle density. The mechanism we propose represents a scientific breakthrough from the fundamental point of view and indicates that achieving the right balance between nucleation, self-limiting growth, cluster surface diffusion, and coalescence is essential and opens new, exciting possibilities to build up enhanced supported nanostructures using nanoclusters as building blocks.