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Journal of

Journal of Electroanalytical Chemistry 588 (2006) 179–189

Aluminium anodising in oxalate and sulphate solutions. Comparison

of chronopotentiometric and overall kinetic response of
growth mechanism of porous anodic films
G. Patermarakis *, K. Masavetas
School of Chemical Engineering, Department of Materials Science and Engineering, National Technical University,
Iroon Polytechniou 9, Zografou 157 80, Athens, Greece

Received 20 December 2004; received in revised form 29 December 2005; accepted 31 December 2005
Available online 3 February 2006


Aluminium anodising was performed in saturated and unsaturated H2C2O4 solutions and in H2SO4 and saturated H2SO4 + Al2(SO4)3
solutions at similar temperatures, concentrations and current density to reveal the effect of anions and condensed electrolyte nanoparticle
micelles formed on pore base and wall surfaces on the mechanism of growth of porous anodic alumina films. Chronopotentiometry and
overall kinetics showed that the kinetics and mechanism of growth and nanostructure of films are similar in oxalate and sulphate solu-
tions. But differences also appear, like higher field strength across the barrier layer and much lower pore wall dissolution rate in oxalate
solutions. These are attributed to dissimilar kind of anions, smaller amount of incorporated ones and depth of penetration in barrier
layer and pore walls during the film growth in oxalate solutions and to their participation in a step of oxide dissolution mechanism that
becomes the rate controlling in this case. In saturated solutions the condensed H2C2O4 and Al2(SO4)3 micelles affect the kinetics and
mechanism of film growth, more H2C2O4, allowing a better design of structure. Results promote the knowledge on growth mechanism
and kinetics of anodic films enabling methods to optimise the structure for their many scientific or technological applications.
 2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Keywords: Al anodising; Oxalate/sulphate solutions; Chronopotentiomety; Kinetics; Mechanism

1. Introduction nanoparticle sized ultra active catalysts or supports [11–

13], etc. Their optimal effectiveness depends on the suitable
Porous anodic alumina films are important materials design of their porous structure, nature/composition of
applied to improve the mechanical properties of Al [1], as pore wall oxide and reactive properties. Porous films form
anticorrosion [2–4] and decorating [2,3] coatings and mem- in phosphoric, oxalic, chromic, and sulphuric acid solutions
branes [5], in magnetic memories [6], catalysis [7–13], [2,3,27,28]. Also, bisulphates [29,30] and H2SO4 + sulphate
nuclear reactors [14], rechargeable batteries [15], as tem- salts were used [29,31–36]. The H2SO4, and generally sul-
plates for synthesising emitters [16,17], fuels cells [18], etc. phate solutions, have been employed most frequently.
Due to the nanometer scale porous structure [2,3,7–13] The structure of uniformly/regularly grown films is
and sizes of particles constituting the pore walls [19] they defined by the surface density, base diameter and shape
also found application in nanoscience and nanotechnology, of pores. Films grown in H2SO4 have a surface density of
e.g., forms for electroplating metal nanowires [20–22], tem- pores of the order 1010 or 1011 cm2 [12,31], depending
plates for creating C [23,24] or TiO2 [25,26] nanotubes, solely on, and decreasing with, current density [31,37]
and base diameter, ranging from several nm to a few tens
Corresponding author. Tel.: +30 210 7723099; fax: +30 210 7723184. nm [31], depending on, and increasing with, temperature
E-mail address: (G. Patermarakis). and H+ activity at pore bases [29,30]. The pores generally

0022-0728/$ - see front matter  2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
180 G. Patermarakis, K. Masavetas / Journal of Electroanalytical Chemistry 588 (2006) 179–189

open to the surface due to chemical dissolution of pore 2. Experimental

walls by the electrolyte during anodising [2,38–42] similar
to open circuit oxide dissolution [38–42] that is a first order Oxalic acid, H2C2O4, 1.53 M electrolyte was decided to
reaction with respect to H+ activity and is hindered by be used for Al anodising, in view of H2SO4 1.53 M (15%
incorporated electrolyte anions [29]. Prolonged anodising w/v) one often met in the literature, for comparison. But
may yield a quasi-maximum limiting thickness [2,3,43], this solution happened to be saturated. By the method
due to pore opening [43,44], reduced with pore density, described elsewhere [36], it was found that 1.53 M is
temperature and H+ activity. indeed close enough to saturation concentration while
Al anodising in conditions like low temperatures and elec- the solubility increased with temperature. Al was ano-
trolyte concentrations and high current densities in which, in dised in this solution at current density 15 mA cm2, dif-
addition, condensed Al2(SO4)3 is not formed inside the ferent times up to a maximum one defined later and
pores, favour the growth of low porosity hard films [2,3]. Sul- temperature 25 C as well as at temperature 35 C, where
phate additives like Na2SO4, Al2(SO4)3, MgSO4, MnSO4, the above solution became unsaturated. For comparison,
(NH4)2SO4 and NiSO4 [31–35] were believed to reduce the Al was also anodised at 25 C in H2SO4 1.53 M solution
solvent action of electrolyte, thus favouring hard films. and H2SO4 1.53 M + Al2(SO4)3 0.75 M one (that is just
But, actually, their presence may increase H+ activity and saturated [47]) and H2SO4 1.53 M at 35 C at the same
always increases the amount of incorporated anions current density. The amount of H2C2O4 and Al2(SO4)3
[29,30,36]; the first increases the pore base diameter and rate at 25 C slightly exceeded the saturation one. The small
of pore wall dissolution reaction but the second reduces that amount of precipitate could not appreciably hinder
rate. Its reduction can prevail in some cases. Conditions as vigorous bath stirring but always assured saturated
above [44–46] and additives like Na2SO4 [31], Al2(SO4)3 solution.
and MgSO4 [32], etc., favour pitting, i.e., non-uniform/ The pH of solutions was measured that was 0.550, 0.284
abnormal growth of films which thicken locally excessively and 0.131 for H2C2O4 1.53 M, H2SO4 1.53 M and H2SO4
[44–46] and acquire non-uniform aspect, thickness, porous 1.53 M + Al2(SO4)3 0.75 M at 25 C and 0.445 and 60
structure, porosity, hardness and roughness and cracks. (indicative value) for H2C2O4 and H2SO4 at 35 C. The
Condensed Al2(SO4)3 is formed as colloidal nanoparticle pH measurement after each anodising run showed minor
micelles on pore surface [36]. The field at pore bases and changes especially in sulphate solutions, which have lower
solid surface of pores catalyse their formation. They are pH’s. The H+ activities, 10pH, were, respectively, 0.282,
formed, removed and dissolved, according to a quasi-equi- 0.520, 0.740, 0.359 and P1 M.
librium process and affect the kinetics and mechanism of Al sheets 0.5 mm thick and 99.5% pure were used. The
film growth by reducing the surface fraction of charge Al composition, shape and dimensions of the Al anodes
exchange and diameter at pore bases and the real fraction and Pb cathodes used and the procedure for washing and
of dissolved wall surface. They also enhance the mecha- neutralizing Al anodes after anodising to remove the pore
nism of regular film growth. Their coagulation is prevented filling solution and contained compounds and drying were
by their similar charge. Saturated H2SO4 + Al2(SO4)3 solu- described earlier [36,43].
tions exert maximal such effects. Relevant studies [47,48] Al anodising was followed chronopotentiometrically.
revealed many details of the critical role of micelles and During galvanostatic anodising and film thickening, after
conditions in pores allowing optimisation of films with spe- some time interval from the start characterised by certain
cific structural features. details (see later), the anodic potential required to keep
From studies [36,47,48] it appeared that the use of solu- constant current remains almost constant in unsaturated
tions saturated by pore forming electrolyte per se, where solutions but rises notably in saturated ones [36]. This
condensed electrolyte micelles must be formed easier, could potential, determined as previously [49], almost coincides
further improve their effect on film growth mechanism. with the potential drop from the double layer at pore bases
This is possible only for oxalic acid; chromic acid solution to the oxidejmetal interface [29,36] and is close to anodising
is actually saturated by CrO3, forming on dissolution chro- voltage. For convenience the latter was recorded. The volt-
mic acid, and not by acid. Thus, the research of Al anodis- age rise continued up to 50 V for saturated H2C2O4 solu-
ing in saturated and unsaturated oxalic acid solutions and tion; then, anodising was interrupted, since higher voltages
in sulphate ones in similar conditions for comparison pur- could cause large increase of temperature in pores (see
poses is interesting enabling predictions for its further opti- later) notably exceeding that of bulk solution and prohib-
misation, besides that achieved in sulphate solutions iting a strict control of conditions. In unsaturated solution
[29,36,37,44,46,48]. This is the new idea of this study. A anodising took place at various times up to the higher time
combined chronopotentiometric and overall kinetic in saturated one for comparison purposes. In sulphate
method was applied that is an effective tool to enter the solutions it continued up to higher times, since voltage
phenomena in barrier layer and pore walls during anodis- was <<50 V. Chronopotentiometric studies were per-
ing [29,36,47] where other methods applied, i.e., to barrier formed up to these higher times.
type films are ineffective, inaccurate or inapplicable due to The mass of film (m) spread over the anodised Al spec-
the existence of pores. imen surface (Sg = 30.75 cm2 [43,44]), necessary for the
G. Patermarakis, K. Masavetas / Journal of Electroanalytical Chemistry 588 (2006) 179–189 181

overall kinetic study, was determined by the equation accu- The gas evolved on the anode then may be due to oxida-
rately applied in sulphate solutions [44] tion reaction(s), parallel to Al oxidation, of H2C2O4 reduc-
m ¼ mfi  min þ mAl;F tion product(s) to one(s) embracing gas(es). The volume of
solution, 1 dm3, and total t of each experimental run regard-
¼ mfi  min þ jtS g ðAMAl Þð3F 1 Þ; ð1Þ ing no participation of products in anodic processes define
where min is the initial mass of Al specimen before anodis- minor total concentration; that of participating com-
ing, mfi is its final mass after anodising, cleaning and dry- pound(s) is thus negligible. This may justify why these pro-
ing, mAl,F is the mass of Al consumed which obeys cesses do not consume valuable charge thus the measured
Faraday’s law [43,44], j is the current density, t is the time, and calculated m coincide; but high concentrations might
AMAl is the atomic mass of Al and F is Faraday’s constant. exert noticeable effects. Also the coincidence of measured
To test its validity in H2C2O4 solution (for reasons given and calculated m may mean that H2C2O4 reduction prod-
below) m was also found by oxide dissolution in chromo- ucts participate in chemical, probably catalytic, processes,
phosphoric acid solution (containing 35 ml H3PO4 85% as anodic aluminas are strong catalysts [11–13], alone or
w/v and 20 g CrO3 per litre) that dissolves the oxide and together with electrochemical ones. When such processes
leaves intact Al [3,43]. The thickness of films at an interme- compete the Al oxidation one, the spaces of anode and cath-
diate t at each temperature was measured and its unifor- ode can be separated by proper diaphragm; but here they do
mity was checked by optical microscope in suitably not appreciably affect it and separation was unnecessary.
formed metallographic specimens as described earlier [43]. The H2C2O4 solution films were yellowish more at high
The anode and cathodes were observed during anodising t’s. Such a colouration never occurred in sulphate ones here
to reveal probable unusual phenomena; after anodising or elsewhere [30,43,44,47]. It may be due to products of
the Al anodes were examined macroscopically and micro- H2C2O4 reduction, or other products as above, embodied
scopically as described earlier [45] to verify occurrence or in the barrier layer and pore walls. Glyoxal is yellow [53]
not of pitting and other phenomena. and its incorporation may yield colouration.

3. Results 3.2. Chronopotentiometric study

3.1. General observations for the anodising process, related The anodising voltage (DV) vs. t plots are given in
phenomena and film morphology. Peculiarities of anodising Fig. 1a. An initial transient stage appears. In a t of the
process in H2C2O4 solutions compared to that in sulphate ones order of 1 s DV rises rapidly up to a high value. These t
and DV values depend on temperature (T) and electrolyte
During Al anodising in H2C2O4, despite the vigorous kind, are larger at lower T and in H2C2O4, and must mark
stirring, small rare bubbles, macroscopically observed, were the nucleation of pores also in H2C2O4 as in sulphate solu-
developed on the surface of anode. Such a gas evolution was tions [49]. During a next transient stage DV drops and
never before observed during Al anodising in sulphate solu- becomes minimum DVm in a time t(DVm) of the order of
tions, like H2SO4, H2SO4 + Al2(SO4)3, Al(HSO4)3, KHSO4, 1 min where in sulphate solutions a quasi-steady state pore
NaHSO4, LiHSO4 and Mg(HSO4)2 [30,43,44,47]. This may base diameter, nature/composition of barrier layer and
note inaccurate application of Eq. (1) in H2C2O4. If differ- electrolyte composition in pores is set up that must occur
ences really existed, they should be larger, surely detected, also for H2C2O4. Then two cases appear:
for films with high m, or thick films. The mass of oxide
was thus determined by its dissolution at the higher t’s. It (i) At T = 25 C and saturated both H2C2O4 and sulphate
was 0.2081 and 0.2721 g at 25 C and t = 60 and 80 min solutions DV rises with increasing rate with t. The trend
and 0.2221 g at 35 C and t = 80 min. From Eq. (1) m was shows that in H2C2O4 solution the DV rise must be
found 0.2078, 0.2751 and 0.2227 g, respectively; the error, strongly reinforced with t beyond the higher t
0.14%, 1.10% and 0.06%, is minor. Also the mass of employed; thus DV varies with t similarly as in sulphate
consumed Al, found by weighing Al specimen before ano- solution. As shown for sulphate solutions [36,47] this
dising and after oxide removal, essentially coincided with DV rise marks the formation of salt nanoparticle
that of Faraday’s law, as Eq. (1) anticipates. Eq. (1) is thus micelles at least on the pore base surface that causes
valid for H2C2O4 and the gas evolved on the anode may be the gradual reduction of pore base diameter and free
not O2 related to Al oxidation. surface fraction not occupied by micelles both of which
A quite surprising phenomenon concerning Pb cathode, result in the rise of DV. Hence, micelles also form in
not commended heretofore in relevant studies, is that H2 H2C2O4 but their nature, condensed H2C2O4, alumin-
evolution (yielded by the process 2H+ + 2e ! H2) never ium oxalate, or mixed, is unknown yet.
occurred, opposite to sulphate solutions where crowded (ii) At T = 25 C for H2SO4 and at T = 35 C for H2SO4
release of H2 always occurred. Literature search revealed and H2C2O4 an almost horizontal plateau appears,
that cathodic electroreduction of H2C2O4 occurs on high met in sulphate solutions when conditions and diam-
hydrogen overvoltage metals like Pb [50–52] yielding gly- eter at pore bases are nearly constant and micelles do
oxylic and glycolic acids and glyoxal. not form [36].
182 G. Patermarakis, K. Masavetas / Journal of Electroanalytical Chemistry 588 (2006) 179–189

(a) be achieved exceeding slightly or appreciably k00 jtm or k00 jtl

T / oC Electrolyte
[43,44]. The experimental h’s at t = 40 and 60 min and
: 25 H2SO4
50 : 35 H2SO4
T = 25 and 35 C, 18.5 and 28.0 lm, essentially coincided
: 25 H2SO4 + Al2(SO4)3 sat. with those of Eq. (2). Thus Eq. (2) applies also for H2C2O4
: 25 H2C2O4 sat. films. The conformity of film growth simultaneously to
: 35 H2C2O4 Eqs. (1) and (2) for both sulphate and oxalate electrolytes
undeniably verifies that the film growth mechanism is identi-
ΔV / V

cal and the characteristic porous, cellular, columnar struc-

ture of anodic films is qualitatively similar for both
30 solutions [43]; this was also verified by SEM, TEM and re-
lated methods [54,55]. For H2C2O4 films all t’s employed
were <tm. But for the H2SO4 ones at T = 25 and 35 C and
20 H2SO4 + Al2(SO4)3 tm  110, 30 and 120 min. Using Eq.
(1) the DV vs. h [h 6 h(tm)] plots were constructed, Fig. 1b,
which resemble those in Fig. 1a up to t = tm.
10 At each T and t or h, DV is higher for H2C2O4 than for
0 40 80 120 160 sulphate solutions. It decreases with T for both kind solu-
t / min tions. For sulphate solutions DV is initially higher in pure
(b) 60 H2SO4 but beyond a t or h the trend is reversed.
T / o C Electrolyte
: 25 H2SO4
The chronopotentiometric study shows that the mecha-
: 35 H2SO4 nism of film growth is common for both H2C2O4 and sul-
50 : 25 H2SO4 + Al2 (SO4)3 sat. phate solutions. Though the DV vs. t or h plot implies the
: 25 H2 C2O4 sat.
formation of micelles on the pore base surface also in sat-
: 35 H2C2 O4
urated H2C2O4 solution, further undeniable evidence is
40 given below by the overall kinetic study.
ΔV / V

3.3. Overall kinetic study

The m vs. t plots are given in Fig. 2a. The m vs.
h[h 6 h(tm)] plots are given in Fig. 2b. In sulphate solutions
20 at each j and for regular film growth and constant pore
base diameter (Db), met when Al2(SO4)3 micelles are not
formed at pore bases and conditions around them are con-
0 20 40 60
stant or change imperceptibly with t [36], the DV vs. t plot
at t > t(DVm) shows an almost horizontal plateau [45]; then
h / µm
the kinetic model [44,45]
Fig. 1. Variation of the anodising voltage, DV, with time, t, (a) and film
thickness, h[h(t(DVm)) 6 h 6 h(tm)], (b) at current density j = 15 mA cm2, A ¼ ðkjt  mÞð41 pS g d c k 0 tÞ1 ¼ A0 þ A1 t þ A2 t2
temperatures T = 25 and 35 C and in H2C2O4 and sulphate solutions.
¼ 4p1 p; ½A0 ; A1 ; A2 > 0 and tðDV m Þ 6 t 6 tm ; ð3Þ

Pitting was not observed and thus films were regularly/ applies, irrespective of pore shape [43,44], where A is a
uniformly grown. The uniformity of film thickness was also dimensionless factor, k is a constant resulting from Fara-
checked by optical microscope [43] and satisfactorily veri- day’s law, dc is the density of compact pore wall oxide
fied for both electrolytes. The thickness of uniformly/regu- (3.42 g cm3) [43], A0 ¼ nD2b where n is the surface pore
larly grown films in sulphate solutions, or the average one density, A1 and A2 are parameters determined by j and T
of irregularly grown films, (h) is given by and p is porosity (v/v). From Eqs. (2) and (3)

h ¼ k 0 t ¼ k 00 jt; ðt 6 tl Þ; ð2Þ A ¼ A0 þ A01 h þ A02 h2 ¼ 4p1 p; ½A0 ; A01 ; A02 > 0

and h½tðDV m Þ 6 h 6 hðtm Þ. ð4Þ
where k00 is a constant 3.09 · 106 cm3 mA1 min1 and tl is
the time up to which h increases linearly with t [43]. The tl is For t = 0 the model (3) gives A0 = 4 p p but initially
identical to, or slightly higher than, tm at which the maximum only a barrier layer exists with zero p. Thus, it applies after
average diameter of pores at a position along them, usually the t of pore nucleation, which is of the order of 1 s [29],
at or near film surface, approaches first the cell width and i.e., negligible compared to t’s employed. The limitation
surface sight starts to change from a shiny, transparent t(DVm) 6 t 6 tm always satisfies this condition. The A (or
and similar to Al metal to a mat, milky one [43–45]. For p) is related to basic features like n, Db, etc., and magnifies
t > tl h increases with retarded rate with t up to a t = tc where the m differences permitting detailed/accurate studies of
it may become 0; then a quasi-maximum limiting h (hc) may regular film growth [29,37,44].
G. Patermarakis, K. Masavetas / Journal of Electroanalytical Chemistry 588 (2006) 179–189 183

(a) 0.4 (a) 0.7

T / oC Electrolyte
: 25 H2SO4
: 35 H2SO4
: 25 H2SO4 + Al2(SO4)3 sat. 0.6
: 25 H2C2O4 sat.
: 35 H2C2O4


T / oC Electrolyte
: 25 H2SO4
0.3 : 35 H2SO4
: 25 H2SO4 + Al2(SO4)3 sat.
: 25 H2C2O4 sat.
: 35 H2C2O4

0.0 0.2
0 40 80 120 160 200 0 40 80 120 160
t / min
t / min
(b) 0.4 (b) 0.7
T / oC Electrolyte
: 25 H2SO4
: 35 H2SO4
: 25 H2SO4 + Al2(SO4)3 sat. 0.6
0.3 : 25 H2C2O4 sat.
: 35 H2C2O4


T / oC Electrolyte
: 25 H2SO4
0.3 : 35 H2SO4
: 25 H2SO4 + Al2(SO4)3 sat.
: 25 H2C2O4 sat.
: 35 H2C2O4
0.0 0.2
0 20 40 60 0 20 40 60
h / µm h / µm
Fig. 2. Variation of the film mass, m, with time, t, (a) and film thickness, h Fig. 3. Variation of the dimensionless factor A with time, t, (a) and film
[h(t(DVm)) 6 h 6 h(tm)], (b) at current density j = 15 mA cm2, tempera- thickness, h[h(t(DVm)) 6 h 6 h(tm)], (b) at current density j = 15 mA cm2,
tures T = 25 and 35 C and in H2C2O4 and sulphate solutions. temperatures T = 25 and 35 C and in H2C2O4 and sulphate solutions.

It is known that the pore/cell ordering in film surface is

poor, following metallurgical texture [54,56,57]. But the colloidal Al2(SO4)3 nanoparticle micelles form at least on
inherent to film growth mechanism of their self-organisation the pore base surface affecting the mechanism of film
gradually yields a hexagonal ordering towards the metalj growth. The average Db and the average rate of wall disso-
oxide interface [58–65]. Thus at t P t(DVm) where exactly lution decrease with t or h [36] more at low A1 (or A01 ) due
Eqs. (3) and (4) apply, excluding only a thin surface layer to the rise of surface fraction occupied by micelles. Reduc-
of poor ordering, in the rest thicker film part better ordering tion of p with h can only thus occur.
and uniformity are assured, i.e., within each Al grain domain The A vs. t and h plots are given in Fig. 3a and b. The
when cell width is much smaller than grains size [56] (e.g., at parameters A0, A1, A2, A01 and A02 appear in Table 1. Figs.
low j’s) or along larger areas or all surface when cell size is 1 and 3 show that micelles are not formed in H2SO4 and
comparable to, or larger than, grains size (e.g., at high j’s). H2C2O4 solutions at T = 35 C. At T = 25 C they show
When DV increases drastically at t P t(DVm), a scatter formation of micelles in saturated H2C2O4, while Fig. 1
of points usually occurs in the A vs. t[t(DVm) 6 t 6 tm] shows formation of micelles in saturated sulphate solution
and h [h[t(DVm)] 6 h 6 h(tm)] plots which, irrespective of but this is not so strongly manifested by Fig. 3. However,
pitting growth or not, obey the equation [36] micelles also form in this case since as j rises A1 and A01
decrease and at j > 15 mA cm2 they become <0 [36], con-
A  A0 þ A1 t þ A2 t2 ¼ A0 þ A01 h þ A02 h2 ; ð5Þ
sistent to Fig. 1. Thus, both the mechanism of film growth
where A0, A2 and A02
are >0 while A1 and are usually >0 A01 and overall kinetic responses in these two kind solutions
at low j’s and become <0 at higher j’s and minima appear; resemble. The plots in Fig. 3 shift upwards with T for both
184 G. Patermarakis, K. Masavetas / Journal of Electroanalytical Chemistry 588 (2006) 179–189

Table 1
Values of parameters A0, A1, A2, A01 and A02 and of correlation coefficient, COR, derived from fitting Eqs. (3) and (4) or (5) to the experimental results, and
estimated values of the anodising ratio, a.r. = 21(DcDb)(DVm)1, and the average filed strength across the barrier layer, E  (a.r.)1
Electrolyte T/C 104A0 104A1/min1 106A2/min2 104 A01 =lm1 106 A02 =lm2 COR Db/nm (h ! 0 for a.r./nm V1 E/V nm1
saturated solutions)
H2SO4 1.53 M 25 3255 13.34 8.81 28.77 41.00 0.9997 16.02 0.52 1.92
H2SO4 1.53 M 35 4228 22.44 130.36 48.41 606.79 0.9987 18.25 0.61 1.64
H2SO4 1.53 M + 25 3585 3.16 7.95 6.81 37.00 0.9893 16.81 0.54 1.87
Al2(SO4)3 0.75 M
H2C2O4 1.53 M 25 4029 19.91 21.34 42.96 99.37 0.7556 17.82 0.18 5.71
H2C2O4 1.53 M 35 4336 1.97 15.54 4.17 72.63 0.9967 18.48 0.23 4.33

kind solutions while at each T those of sulphate and must be affected primarily by j and secondarily by the kind
H2C2O4 solutions intersect each other at t’s or h’s reduced and concentration of electrolyte and anions, though the
with T. Despite the higher acidity of sulphate solutions, pores can really start to develop at different time or thick-
quite amazingly, p is smaller at low t’s or h’s. The span ness of initial barrier type film. The anions are embodied in
of A or p variation, for comparable large t or h ranges, is a sublayer of barrier layer adjacent to its surface where the
smaller for H2C2O4 plots. concentration of, e.g., sulphate, anions strongly drops
towards the interface [29,30]. After the formation of pores
3.4. Approximate estimation of structural features and of the and at t P t(DVm) the anions thus embodied cannot affect
average field strength across the barrier layer the production of oxide in the interface and n. These must
be valid also for oxalate anions, which are embodied in
In sulphate solutions, the pores may nucleate in pre- much less amounts than sulphates [27] (see also later).
formed small cracks created by mechanical stresses [29] Since n is of the same order for various electrolytes
appearing in the initial flat barrier type oxide in the sub- [2,3,12,55], it depends almost solely on j in sulphate ones
layer adjacent to the Aljoxide interface and directed to [31,37] varying slightly with j, the oxide is formed only in
the surface. Oxide is formed, actually in that interface the oxidejAl interface [49,66] and the pores nucleate by
[49,66], Fig. 4, at the same rate in both kind solutions. the above mechanism, n in H2C2O4 and sulphate solutions,
Thus, the number of active cracks and nucleation of pores though probably not coinciding, must be comparable and
qualitatively alike depending on j. This is valid despite that
appreciable differences may appear in the literature due to
different conditions of anodising, usually performed at con-
stant DV where j (and n) changes with electrolyte kind and t
and to the measurement methods usually based on TEM;
the determination of n is based on the measurement of a
pore wall oxide
x pore
small number of pores in a limited surface area and thus
it is usually inevitably accompanied by errors. Since at
Dx Al2O3
j = 15 mA cm2 n = 1.269 · 1011 cm2 [12], the average
cell boundaries Dc, obeying nD2c ¼ 4=3 [49], is Dc  32.4 nm that must be
attached layer also roughly comparable to that in H2C2O4 solution at
identical j. The average Db’s, Db = (A0/n)1/2, Table 1, are
also of nm scale where these values are close to the real
double layer
ones for sulphate solutions and approximately valid for
oxalate ones; as noted earlier the Db’s are almost indepen-
barrier layer
dent of t or h in unsaturated solutions but these Db’s are
metal / oxide interface true for h ! 0 in saturated solutions where micelles grow
at t > 0 gradually reducing Db.
The anodising ratio (a.r.), i.e. DVm/[barrier layer thick-
Al ness = 21(DcDb)] and the average field strength across
Fig. 4. Schematic representation of a section parallel to the pore axis of an the barrier layer (E)  (a.r.)1 are given in Table 1. E is
elongated, columnar cell of a porous anodic alumina film. The pore, the much higher in H2C2O4 films. For both kind solutions E
pore base diameter Db, the pore diameter at a position x along the pores drops with T. Irrespective of the accuracy of adopted n,
Dx, the cell size Dc, the pore wall oxide and the hemispherical shell shaped
and thus of Dc, Db, a.r. and E’s, information is taken for
barrier layer are distinguished. Also, the metaljoxide interface and cell
boundaries are shown. The pore generally broadens towards the film their relative values.
surface as a result of the pore wall chemical dissolution reaction by the The phenomena in barrier layer, on pore wall surface
electrolyte inside the pores during the film growth. and inside the pores during Al anodising are complex,
G. Patermarakis, K. Masavetas / Journal of Electroanalytical Chemistry 588 (2006) 179–189 185

determining each other, and greatly affect the mechanism port analysis for H2C2O4 (that must be also complex
of film growth. For a satisfactory discussion and interpre- enough) is absent, a more or less similar situation is
tation of results, given below, the processes and conditions expected. Thus in both kind solutions the H+ concentra-
inside the pores must be first discussed. tion and activity in bath bulk solution (cHþ ;0 , aHþ ;0 ), at posi-
tion x along the pores (cHþ; x , aHþ; x ) and at pore bases (cHþ ;b ,
4. Discussion aHþ ;b ) must follow ca,0, ca,x and ca,b which are close each
other. At each h, Tx  T must be larger in H2C2O4 than
4.1. Overall processes occurring inside the pores during the in sulphate solutions due to the higher DV’s.
film growth
4.2.2. Steady state conditions inside the pores during
The mass balance of anodic processes shows that H2O is anodising in saturated solutions
consumed yielding oxygen for oxide production in In saturated sulphate baths at ca,0 = 15–95% w/v super-
amounts corresponding to pore walls around pore bases saturation dominates in pores during film growth enlarged
[29], Fig. 4, and H+ ions are released in the pore base on increasing x and j and decreasing Tx [47]. The ca,x varies
region [67] (2Al + 3H2O  6e ! Al2O3 + 6H+). For sul- slightly and cs,x rises with x. The unlike dissociation con-
phate solutions Al2(SO4)3 forms by the ‘‘field assisted’’ stants of acids and concentrations and mobilities of anions
pore base oxide dissolution [2,3,31,33–35,68–70], through [71] and the saturation of H2C2O4 solution by acid and of
the rejection from surface and then hydration of Al3+ sulphate one by salt may affect transport phenomena. The
and migration of O2 inwards the barrier layer [29], and acid and salt concentrations and their distributions along
by the chemical pore wall oxide dissolution [2,38–42] the pores thus may differ in the two kind solutions. But
(Al2O3 + 3H2SO4 ! Al2(SO4)3 + 3H2O). It enters the pore despite differences the situation must be roughly similar.
filling solution which contains Al2(SO4)3, besides H2SO4. Supersaturation in sulphate solutions favours the growth
Similar processes must occur in H2C2O4 electrolyte and of Al2(SO4)3 micelles on pore base and wall surfaces; the
Al2(C2O4)3 and/or Al(HC2O4)3 are thus formed. rise of Tb and Tx acts oppositely [36,47]. These must occur
The heat evolved during Al anodising mainly around the also for H2C2O4.
pore bases, which increases with j and DV, is dissipated to
the bath solution mainly through the pore filling solution, 4.3. Comparison of pore wall chemical dissolution rate
which has higher thermal conductivity than the pore wall during film growth in sulphate and H2C2O4 solutions. Effect
oxide. A gradient of temperature is set up along the pores of electrolyte anions incorporated in pore wall oxide and
[43]. The temperature around the pore bases (Tb) is >T and contained in pore filling solution on that rate
that at position x, Fig. 4, (Tx) increases with x. The Tx  T
rises with decreasing T and average Dx and increasing x, j The rate of chemical dissolution (length/time) of pore
and DV [43]. The acid and salt concentrations secondarily wall oxide by the electrolyte, or that of pore radius
affect Tb and Tx. After transient phenomena end, at each increase, at each surface position x, Fig. 4, (rd,x) obeys
t and x a quasi-steady state is attained for the mass, charge the equation
and heat transfer. rd;x ¼ k d;x aHþ ;x ð1  hx Þ; ð6Þ
4.2. Conditions inside the pores during the film growth where kd,x is the local rate constant, depending on the nat-
ure/composition of surface oxide and hx is the local frac-
4.2.1. Steady state conditions inside the pores in unsaturated tion of surface occupied by micelles [36]. As discussed
solutions aHþ ;x  aHþ ;0 . In unsaturated pore filling solution hx = 0
The quasi-steady state transport phenomena inside the [36]. The local rd,x and kd,x cannot be found but the average
pores were studied [45,67] considering regular film growth ones along the pores (rd,a, kd,a) obey the equation
and Tx = T in H2SO4 solutions up to concentrations
n1=2 rd;a ¼ fA0 þ ½ð4=3ÞA  31 A0 1=2 g½ð4=3Þt1
(ca,0) = 15% w/v and in H2SO4 + Al2(SO4)3 solutions at
similar acid concentrations and salt concentrations (cs,0) ¼ n1=2 k d;a aHþ ;0 ; ðt 6 tm Þ; ð7Þ
up to that at which micelles do not grow on pore base sur-
face, where transport analysis was possible [45,46]. The where A are Eq. (3) fitting the results [29], Fig. 3. It has a
dependence of acid concentration at pore bases (ca,b) and strict physical meaning for constant Db. Experimental tech-
position x, Fig. 4, (ca,x) and of salt concentration at pore niques directly revealing the nature/composition of barrier
bases (cs,b) and position x (cs,x) on h, x, j, T, ca,0 and cs,0 layer during the film growth are unknown [72]. Only indi-
is generally complex especially for ca,x and ca,b. But cs,x rect methods can be applied. The mechanism of porous
increases with x and j, decreases with T and faintly changes layer growth predicts that the nature/composition of oxide
with ca,0 [45]. However, always and especially for denser across the barrier layer is impressed across the adjacent
baths, the ca,x and cs,x for x 6 150 lm examined did not pore walls and for sulphate solutions films it is extrapolated
appreciably differ from ca,0 and cs,0. To a tolerable approx- on pore surface of a h = hc thickness film [29,30]. Its discov-
imation, ca,x  ca,0 and cs,x  cs,0. Although such a trans- ery along that surface reveals it across the pore walls and
186 G. Patermarakis, K. Masavetas / Journal of Electroanalytical Chemistry 588 (2006) 179–189

barrier layer. For sulphate solutions the increase of anions anions also retard the oxide dissolution. The anticipated
concentration in a thin layer on pore walls (or surface con- much lower n1/2kd,a in H2C2O4 than in sulphate solution
centration) reduces rd,x [29,30]. Thus rd,a and kd,a decrease for high h ! hc, where n1/2kd,a approaches the local
with the average anion concentration along the pores or n1/2kd in the free of anions regions of cell boundaries or
across the pore walls [29]. The relative kd,a’s in common an- oxidejAl interface [29], shows that the kd of pure oxide is
ion, e.g., sulphate, solutions inversely represent the relative much lower in H2C2O4 films. The oxide dissolution mech-
average anion concentrations. anism embraces [29]: (i) hydroxylation of surface by disso-
To avoid inaccuracies in determining rd,a’s probably aris- ciative adsorption of H2O on Al3+ and O2 sites; (ii)
ing from the adoption of an n value from the literature [12], protonation of hydroxylated surface yielding H2O on
n1/2rd,a was used since n is almost constant for sulphate Al3+ while anions are adsorbed on surface that is the rate
solutions and neighbouring (or even close enough) to that controlling step in sulphate solutions [29]; (iii) solvation
in oxalate solutions. The n1/2rd,a vs. t plots appear in of Al3+ and their rejection in pore filling solution assisted
Fig. 5, excluding the saturated solutions, where for H2C2O4 by adsorbed anions and H2O. Step (iii) must become the
n1/2rd,a’s < 0 (unacceptable) and for sulphate one the real rate controlling in H2C2O4 solutions.
n1/2rd,a’s must differ from those of Eq. (7), since Db decreases
with t due to the effect of micelles. Always n1/2rd,a increases 4.4. Interpretations of chronopotentiometric and overall
with t (or h) or along the pores towards the film surface. kinetic response of growth mechanism of porous anodic
For aHþ ;x  aHþ ;0 n1/2kd,a thus increases across the pore walls alumina films in sulphate and oxalic acid solutions
and barrier layer and towards the cell boundaries and
Aljoxide interface, Fig. 4. These concern both kind solutions. 4.4.1. Interpretation of DV vs. t or h plots, their relative
For t ! 0, rd,a ! rd,a,0 and kd,a ! kd,a,0, where rd,a,0 and positions and of DV change with T and solution kind
kd,a,0 are the local rd,a and kd,a on walls at pore bases. This As already noted the variation of DV is due almost
variation of n1/2rd,a and n1/2kd,a with t even for t 6 t(DVm) exclusively to potential drop from the solutionjoxide inter-
is valid since the A vs. t plot results, Fig. 3, were treated for face at pore bases to the oxidejAl one; DV strongly depends
t > t(DVm) where a quasi-steady state in nature/composi- on the thickness of barrier layer, 21(DcDb), and pro-
tion across the barrier layer and adjacent pore walls is set cesses in this region [29]. For saturated sulphate solutions
up. The kd,a,0 concerns this region surface in steady state at ca,0 = 15–95% w/v and t P t(DVm) the DV vs. t or h plots
at t > t(DVm) or at t  0 supposing absence of transient generally show an accelerated rise of DV [36,47]. The
stage at t 6 t(DVm). The n1/2rd,a’s for h ! 0, n1/2rd,a,0’s, increase of cs,b with h enhances the growth of micelles that,
Fig. 5, and aHþ ;0 ’s show that kd,a,0 increases with T for sul- in turn, increases the pore base surface fraction occupied
phate solutions, obeying Arrhenius law, and at constant T by them (hb). The field strength on this surface (Eb) and j
it is much lower in H2C2O4 than in sulphate solution that is exert similar effects. The rise of Tb acts oppositely [36].
valid also for rd,a or kd,a at each t or h. The reduction of Supersaturation in pores favours maximal growth of
n1/2kd,a on decreasing h shows that the embodied oxalate micelles at each h but the low Db, or high 21(Dc  Db),
and hb > 0 require high DV even from the early stages nota-
bly rising Tb. At each j, Db increases while 21(Dc  Db)
5 and hb decrease with Tb [37] reducing DV. The Tb and
T/˚C Electrolyte cs,b increase with h. The effect of rising Tb is lower than that
: 25 H2SO4
: 35 H2SO4 of cs,b. These concern also H2C2O4. The plateaus in plots in
4 : 35 H2C2O4 unsaturated solutions are due to weak changes of Db and
conditions inside pores with h.

In sulphate solutions and quasi-steady state, t P t

r d,a / min

3 (DVm), the employed j and T = 25 C, the equation [29]

ðnD2b Þ ¼ 0:3947a1
Hþ ;b þ 2:2645; ð8Þ

applies showing that Db increases with aHþ ;b (or aHþ ;0 ); it is

10 n


easily verified that the present results obey it. Db increases

also with Tb or T [37]. 21(Dc  Db)1 decreases with both
1 T and aHþ ;0 reducing DV. This combined effect holds also
for H2C2O4, Fig. 1. For sulphate solutions and constant
T the higher aHþ ;0 of saturated ones justifies the lower DV
0 at low t’s or h’s. The hb ( 0 for t or h ! 0) rises with t
0 40 80 120 or h reducing Db [36,47] and enlarging DV that gradually
t / min exceeds DV in unsaturated solution; the section of sulphate
Fig. 5. Variation of parameter 10 n1/2rd,a with time, t, at current density
3 solutions plots, T = 25 C, is thus justified.
j = 15 mA cm2, temperatures T = 25 and 35 C and in unsaturated Assuming DV affected only by 21(Dc  Db)1, the com-
H2C2O4 and H2SO4 solutions. parable Dc and slightly different Db’s (h ! 0 for saturated
G. Patermarakis, K. Masavetas / Journal of Electroanalytical Chemistry 588 (2006) 179–189 187

solutions) and thus 21(Dc  Db)1 for both kind solutions thus the pores generally broaden towards their mouths.
cannot justify high DV differences, especially for identical In saturated solution the Db decreases with t or h. The
Tb where they must be even larger. The anions embodied higher aHþ ;0 in this solution increases and hx > 0 decreases
in barrier layer play an important role. rd,x and rd,a; the second effect together with that of anions
The double layer on the pore base surface consists of embodied in larger amounts dominate and rd,a becomes
fixed layer containing mainly SO2 4 in sulphate solutions lower. Hence, the average gradient of A vs. t or h plot
[29] and diffuse layer containing all ions. The penetration and the span of A variation are lower in saturated solution
of anions occurs through microcrevices among the nano- and the plots at T = 25 C intersect.
particles constituting the barrier layer the surface density In saturated H2C2O4 solution, the formation of micelles
and void space of which drop towards the oxidejAl inter- is strong, stronger than in sulphate one, probably due to (i)
face [29]. The field drives the anions from the fixed layer higher E and thus Eb favouring their growth [36] and (ii)
to crevices. As higher is the charge and smaller is the size easy formation suggesting that they rather consist of acid
of anions, as higher is the amount of embodied ones and molecules, favouring epitaxy. The Db strongly decreases
depth of penetration. The size of tetrahedral SO2 4 , with with h, rd,a is low and thus p decreases up to  25 lm
charge located in two adjacent O atoms, is smaller than and then rises. As noted, p can diminish with h only in sat-
that of lengthy C2 O2 4 , with charge spread in two edges. urated solutions for j’s greater than a limit [36,47] that is
This is valid also for HSO 
4 and HC2 O4 . The first dissoci- lower in H2C2O4. Due to the strong decrease of Db with
ation of H2SO4 is complete but the second dissociation t, low rd,a and appearance of minimum in the A vs. t or h
constant at T = 25 C is 1.2 · 102 [71]; the first and second plot, though it meets A axis at a value larger than in sul-
dissociation constants of H2C2O4 at this T are 6.5 · 102 phate solutions at T = 25 C it sects their plots at low h’s.
and 6.1 · 105 [71]. At comparable acids concentrations The smaller span of A variation up to high h’s in saturated
those of HC2 O 4 and C2 O4
are much lower than those H2C2O4 is thus explained.
of HSO4 and SO4 . The conditions in the double layer In unsaturated H2C2O4 and H2SO4 solutions, the almost
probably promote dissociations to SO2 4 and C2 O24 . But constant Db and increase of Dx with t or h justify the valid-
the concentrations of HC2 O4 and C2 O4 in double (and ity of Eqs. (3) and (4) and the A vs. t or h plot profiles in
fixed) layer are still much lower than those of HSO 4 and both T’s. The shift of plot of unsaturated H2SO4 solution
SO24 . The concentration of SO 2
4 in H 2 SO 4 + Al 2 (SO 4)3 upwards with T is due to the increase of Db, rd,x and rd,a
solution is even higher. The incorporation of anions is thus causing, at each h, rise of A (or p). This holds also for plots

favoured more for SO2 2
4 than C2 O4 ; penetration of HSO4 of both saturated solutions compared to those of unsatu-

and HC2 O4 practically does not occur due to their lower rated ones at T = 35 C due mainly to the large T varia-
charge and larger size. The lengthy C2 O2 4 must be sub- tion. The differences in profiles of A vs. t or h plots and
jected to the highest possible effect of field to enter the bar- their relative positions are thus justified.
rier layer or it must be adjusted parallel to the surface, Eq. (8) gives for H2C2O4 nD2b ¼ 0:2728 that is <0.4029,
which, in turn, inhibits its penetration. The amount of Table 1. This may mean that Eq. (8) does not truly apply
embodied sulphate anions and penetration depth are thus in H2C2O4; but most probably this is mainly due to the
larger [27], irrespective of Tb. The geometry of oxalate higher A0’s for H2C2O4 than for both sulphate solutions,
anions, spread of charge and low concentration must be despite the lower acidity of H2C2O4, owing to the larger
responsible also for the slow solvation of Al3+ during pore DV, rising real Tb (and Tx) and Db.
wall dissolution, despite the higher Tb favouring that.
In sulphate solutions Eb rises with j and hb and drops with 5. Conclusions
Tb while j alike affects the required local field strength in oxi-
dejAl interface (Ei) [36]. The local field strength rises towards 1. The mechanism of growth of anodic films is similar in
this interface and the average one in the sublayer enriched by both oxalic acid and sulphate pore forming electrolytes.
anions is lower than in the rest [29]. Thus Eb < E < Ei. The Saturated solutions also show similar behaviours. But
barrier layer is slightly thicker in H2C2O4 solutions due to differences also appeared like: (i) higher field strength
slightly lower Db’s. The sublayer enriched by anions is thin- across the barrier layer requiring larger voltage that
ner. Thus the free of anions sublayer near oxidejAl interface results in higher real temperature around pore bases
is notably thicker. Though Tb is larger in H2C2O4 solutions and along the pores which, in turn, increases the pore
reducing Eb and E, the higher hbP0, thinner first sublayer base diameter and rate of pore wall dissolution in
and thicker next one justify the higher E and DV. H2C2O4; (ii) despite this, the pore wall dissolution is
much slower in H2C2O4, not justified by the lower acid-
4.4.2. Interpretation of both the relative positions of A vs. t ity and higher temperature along the pores; (iii) much
or h plots and their plot profiles stronger formation of H2C2O4 than Al2(SO4)3 micelles
The higher A0 in saturated than in unsaturated sulphate in saturated H2C2O4 and sulphate solutions that, in
solution is due mainly to the larger average Db in the first turn, affects more strongly the mechanism and kinetics
for h ! 0, owing to the higher aHþ ;b or aHþ ;0 , Eq. (8). The of film growth despite the higher temperature inside
Dx, Fig. 4, increases with h due to pore wall dissolution; the pores.
188 G. Patermarakis, K. Masavetas / Journal of Electroanalytical Chemistry 588 (2006) 179–189

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