Development and characterisation of microelectrode and nanoelectrode systems
Woodvine, Helena Louise
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Micro- and nano-electrodes have distinct advantages over large electrodes, including their decreased iR drop and enhanced mass transport due to radial diffusion characteristics which leads to the ready establishment of a steady state (or near steady-state) signal without convection. This enhanced mass transport also leads to increased current densities and signal to noise ratios. However, there is a need for fabrication techniques which reproducibly give micro- and nano-electrodes of controlled size and shape. The optimisation of systematic arrays on the nano-scale, open up possibilities for developing highly sensitive electrode devices, for use in physical chemistry and the determination of fast electrode kinetics and rates of reaction, as well as to provide highly sensitive electroanalytical devices, able to detect very low concentrations of substrates. This thesis first presents work involving the fabrication and characterisation on silicon substrates of square platinum microelectrodes. There is already an established theory for the behaviour of microdisc electrodes however, it is easier to make microsquares reproducibly using pixellated photomasks. The voltammetric and ac impedance characteristics of these electrodes in background electrolyte and in the presence of ferri/ferrocyanide redox couple are presented and the response is theoretically analysed. A combination of computer simulation, theory and experimentation show that these electrodes have increased current densities (14% greater) compared with a microdisc of equivalent radius and an alternative theoretical expression is presented to calculate the limiting current of microsquares at all dimensions. This thesis then discusses the development and optimisation of novel nano-band cavity array electrodes (CaviArE), using standard photo-microlithographic techniques. The resulting architecture encloses a Platinum nanoband of 50 nm width within each array element that is positioned half way up the vertical edges of shallow square cavities (depressions), with a total depth of 1050 nm. The width of the square cavity and the separation of the array elements can be controlled and systematically altered, with great accuracy. The CaviArE devices are shown to give quantitative pseudo-steady-state responses characteristic of multiple nanobands, whilst passing overall currents consistent with a macroelectrode. The array has a much enhanced signal-tonoise ratio compared with an equivalent microsquare array, as it has 0.167% of the area and is therefore markedly less affected by non-Faradaic currents, while it passes comparable Faradaic currents. At high sweep rates the response is also virtually unaffected by solution stirring. The impedammetric characteristics presented show different diffusional regimes at high, medium and low frequencies, associated with diffusion within individual square cavities, outside of the cavity and finally across the whole array as the diffusional fields of the neighbouring array elements overlap. Justification and fitting of equivalent circuits to these frequency regions provide details about the charge transfer, capacitance and diffusional processes occurring. The results show that these systems are highly sensitive to surface transfer effects and a rate constant for ferricyanide of 1.99 cm s-1 was observed, suggesting fast kinetic processes can be detected. Together, these characteristics make nanoband electrode arrays, with this architecture, of real interest for sensitive electroanalytical applications, and development of devices for industrial application is currently being undertaken.