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Simultaneous Interfacial Reactivity and Topography Mapping with Scanning Ion Conductance Microscopy

Momotenko, Dmitry, McKelvey, Kim, Kang, Minkyung, Meloni, Gabriel N., Unwin, Patrick R.
Analytical chemistry 2016 v.88 no.5 pp. 2838-2846
active sites, chemical reactions, electrochemistry, electrodes, finite element analysis, image analysis, microscopy, models, quantitative analysis, topography
Scanning ion conductance microscopy (SICM) is a powerful technique for imaging the topography of a wide range of materials and interfaces. In this report, we develop the use and scope of SICM, showing how it can be used for mapping spatial distributions of ionic fluxes due to (electro)chemical reactions occurring at interfaces. The basic idea is that there is a change of ion conductance inside a nanopipet probe when it approaches an active site, where the ionic composition is different to that in bulk solution, and this can be sensed via the current flow in the nanopipet with an applied bias. Careful tuning of the tip potential allows the current response to be sensitive to either topography or activity, if desired. Furthermore, the use of a distance modulation SICM scheme allows reasonably faithful probe positioning using the resulting ac response, irrespective of whether there is a reaction at the interface that changes the local ionic composition. Both strategies (distance modulation or tuned bias) allow simultaneous topography-activity mapping with a single channel probe. The application of SICM reaction imaging is demonstrated on several examples, including voltammetric mapping of electrocatalytic reactions on electrodes and high-speed electrochemical imaging at rates approaching 4 s per image frame. These two distinct approaches provide movies of electrochemical current as a function of potential with hundreds of frames (images) of surface reactivity, to reveal a wealth of spatially resolved information on potential- (and time) dependent electrochemical phenomena. The experimental studies are supported by detailed finite element method modeling that places the technique on a quantitative footing.