Galvanic Corrosion is an accelerated form of corrosion that occurs when two dissimilar metals are in an electrical contact. The more noble metal drives the corrosion of the active metal and this can be a very fast process. For example if an aluminum frame is connected with steel bolts then aluminum rapidly corrodes and after a few months the whole construction may collapse. So how to prevent galvanic corrosion? First, one should connect only those materials that have a similar electrochemical activity. Second, dielectric corrosion resistant coatings should be applied on the metal parts so that the electrochemical processes cannot take place.
Anodizing aluminum is the ultimate technique for enhancing the corrosion resistance of automobile and aircraft parts, creating nanoporous templates for nanotechnological applications and making scratch resistant casings for electronic devices (cell phones, laptops etc). Anodizing is basically a 3 step process, that consists of a pretreatment for preparing the metal surface, anodizing for creating the anodic oxide layer and sealing the pores for enhancing the corrosion resistance. In the following steps youll need to use protection like gloves and goggles in order to keep yourself safe and also to prevent the contamination of the metal that will be anodized. Anodizing should also be performed in a very well ventilated room – the acidic vapours will cause severe damage to lungs during a prolonged exposure. These vapours also quickly corrode vulnerable parts in nearby electronic systems – so dont keep any valuable devices in the anodizing room.
Before starting with the pretreatment i recommend attaching the aluminum piece on a holder (aluminum wire for example) made out of the same aluminum alloy – that way youll prevent the contamination of the metal piece in the next steps as you no longer need to touch it. This holder will later also serve as the electrical connection in the anodizing process.
In order to remove the organic contamination, soap and water can be used for cleaning away most of the dirt. After rinsing the aluminum piece with deionized water, the final cleaning needs to be done with acetone. Before anodizing however, we need to remove the natural aluminum oxide layer from the metal surface. For that purpose the aluminum piece is dipped into a sodium hydroxide solution for a short time. The bubbling of hydrogen indicates that the oxide layer has been removed and that sodium hydroxide is reacting with aluminum. After removing the natural oxide layer the aluminum piece is rinsed with distilled water. If you have freshly polished the aluminum substrate, then you can likely skip the chemical cleaning and can go straight to anodizing – that saves you a lot of money. Just be sure you dont contaminate the freshly polished surface.
For anodizing a two-electrode setup is used, where the anodizable aluminum piece is the anode. The aluminum object is connected to the positive lead (usually red). The negative lead is connected to the cathode which can be made of stainless steel. Both electrodes need to be seperated and parallel to each other. However, in order to get a uniform oxide layer all over the anodized plate, i recommend using a stainless steel bath as a cathode instead. The bath should match the size and shape of the anodizable substrates.
The anodizable substrate needs to be completely immersed into the electrolyte before starting the process. The porosity and thickness of this oxide layer depends on the electrical parameters, type of electrolyte, its temperature and anodizing time. For example hard – scratch resistant oxide layers are done with type III anodizing in sulphuric acid, at near freezing temperatures and with lower current densities.
In our experiment we used a 10% sulphuric acid solution, a current density of 2 A / dm2 and the anodizing time was 30 minutes. Since the total surface area of the substrate was 3 dm2, the anodizing current was set to 6 ampers. The temperature of the solution was around 22C at start but it had significantly increased when we measured it again after anodizing. So if there is a need to use higher current densities for anodizing, i recommend using a cooling bath around the anodizing bath. In industrial processes a constant anodizing temperature needs to be ensured.
During the anodizing process a nanoporous oxide layer is generated at the cost of aluminum and this alters the appearance of the aluminum piece. These pores are so small, that they are only visible with a powerful scanning electron microscope. For making corrosion resistant coatings, these pores need to be completely sealed and there are several ways to do it. One such method is hydrothermal sealing, which is basically keeping the anodized substrate in boiling water. As a result aluminum oxide is partially turning into aluminum hydroxide, which takes up more space and seals the small pores. Another popular method is dipping the freshly anodized substrate into paint, which is immediatelly sucked into the pores. This significantly increases the metals corrosion resistance and also gives it an awesome appearance.
The nanoporous aluminum oxide can also be used as a template in nanotechnologial applications. In our case we electrochemically deposited silver into these pores and then removed the aluminum oxide with sodium hydroxide. As a result we got silver nanowires with well defined length and diameter.
Anodizing is quite easy and with some practice, its a powerful technique for treating aluminum objects for personal or commercial purposes.
Silver nanorods / nanowires with well defined length (up to tens micrometers) and diameter (around 10 nanometers) can easily be prepared by template synthesis method.
First a template is created by anodizing aluminum. In this process a porous oxide layer is created on top of the metal. The distribution, diameter and length of the pores depends on the anodizing solution and electrical parameters.
In the next step the pores are filled with silver by electrochemical deposition. The growth starts at the bottom of the pores where the pores are connected to the conductive metal. Eventually the whole pore is filled with silver and the deposition is stopped.
In order to get the silver nanorods out of the aluminum oxide matrix, the oxide needs to be etched away. The oxide matrix is removed almost instantly when dipping the substrate into an alkaline solution. As a result the silver nanorods escape into the solution. The amount, diameter and length of the nanorods depends on the oxide template that was used in the preparation process.
Large quantities of silver nanorods can be prepared in that way since in the pores in the oxide matrix are very close to each other which means that after deposition the substrate surface mostly consists of silver in the pores. Also in the etching process only the thin oxide layer is removed from the substrate to extract the nanowires and this means one can easily tune the amount of silver nanorods in a solution by the amount of substrates dipped into the same solution. For example for preparing a solution with a small concentration of silver nanowires only one sample is dipped into the solution. All the nanorods on that sample then go into the solution. By dipping the next sample into the same solution all of the nanowires on the second sample also go into the solution and the concentration is doubled. This process can be repeated as long as aluminium oxide etching is still possible. Note that the sample needs to be removed from the solution once its oxide layer is removed (this may take only a few seconds).
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Anodizing is an electrochemical process where a thicker oxide layer is grown on the material. This is useful for improving an objects corrosion and wear resistance, manufacture nanoporous templates or give the material a decorative appearance. Not all materials can be anodized however as their oxides are not dense and hard but the technique has been widely used on aluminum, titanium, zinc, magnesium and their alloys.
The anodizing system consists of a power source, anodizing bath, electrolyte and anodizable material. The bath is usually made from a chemically resistant conductive material such as stainless steel and serves as a cathode. The anodizable material serves as an anode and is placed inside the anodizing bath with the electrolyte. Both the anode and the cathode need to be connected to the power source. The grown oxide layers properties depend on the material, used electrolyte, temperature and electrical parameters used for anodizing.
In order to produce a uniform oxide layer, the substrates are also treated before the process. The main problem is usually organic contamination of the surface, which prevents growth of the oxide layer. This is removed with organic solvents such as acetone. Often the thin native oxide layer is also removed via etching before the anodizing.