Liu, Y., Arenas, M.A., Skeldon, P., Thompson, G.E., Habazaki, H., Shimizu, K., Bailey, Paul and Noakes, T.C.Q. (2006) Generation of copper nanoparticles during alkaline etching of an Al–30at.%Cu alloy. Corrosion Science, 48 (8). pp. 1874-1884. ISSN 0010-938X

A mechanism of formation of copper nanoparticles is proposed for alkaline etching of a sputtering-deposited Al–30 at.%Cu alloy, simulating the equilibrium θ phase of 2000 series aluminium alloys. Their formation involves enrichment of copper in the alloy beneath a thin alumina film, clustering of copper atoms, and occlusion of the clusters, due to growth of alumina around the clusters, to form nanoparticles. The proposed mechanism is supported by medium energy ion scattering, Rutherford backscattering spectroscopy, X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, and transmission electron microscopy of the alloy following immersion in the sodium hydroxide solution, which disclose the enrichment of copper and the generation of the nanoparticles in the etching product of hydrated alumina. The generation of the nanoparticles is dependent upon the enrichment of copper in the alloy in a layer of a few nanometres thickness, with no requirement for bulk de-alloying of the alloy.

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