An in situ spectro-electrochemical study of aluminium/polymer interfaces development of ATR-FTIR and its integration with EIS for corrosion studies
Abstract: In order to extend the applications of aluminium, organic coatings may be applied on sheet materials, for instance for corrosion protection or aesthetic surface finish purposes in the automotive and construction industries, or on foil materials in the flexible packaging industry.The most common mechanisms for deterioration and structural failure of organically coated aluminium structures are triggered by exposures to the surrounding environment. Despite the great importance to elucidate the influence of exposure parameters on a buried aluminium/polymer interface, there is still a lack of knowledge regarding the mechanisms that destabilise the structure. It is generally believed that a detailed in situ analysis of the transport of corroding species to the buried interface, or of surface processes occurring therein, is most difficult to perform at relevant climatic and real-time conditions.In this work, Attenuated Total Reflection Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (ATR-FTIR) in the Kretschmann-ATR configuration was successfully applied to in situ studies of the transport of water and ionic species through polymer films to the aluminium/polymer interface upon exposure to ultra pure deionised water and to a 1 M sodium thiocyanate (NaSCN) model electrolyte. Other main processes distinguished were the formation of corrosion products on the aluminium surface and swelling of the surface-near polymer network. Hence, in situ ATR-FTIR was capable to separate deterioration-related processes from each other.To perform more unambiguous interpretations, a spectro-electrochemical method was also developed for in situ studies of the buried aluminium/polymer interface by integrating the ATR-FTIR technique with a complementary acting technique, Electrical Impedance Spectroscopy (EIS). While transport of water and electrolyte through the polymer film to the aluminium/polymer interface and subsequent oxidation/corrosion of aluminium could be followed by ATR-FTIR, the protective properties of the polymer as well as of processes at the aluminium surface were simultaneously studied by EIS. The integrated set-up provided complementary information of the aluminium/polymer sample investigated, with ATR-FTIR being sensitive to the surface-near region and EIS being sensitive to the whole system. While oxidation/corrosion and delamination are difficult to distinguish by EIS, oxide formation could be confirmed by ATR-FTIR. Additionally, while delamination and polymer swelling may be difficult to separate with ATR-FTIR, EIS distinguished swelling of the polymer network and also identified ultimate failure as a result of delamination.The capability of the integrated ATR-FTIR / EIS in situ technique was explored by studying aluminium/polymer systems of varying characteristics. Differences in water and electrolyte ingress could be monitored, as well as metal corrosion, polymer swelling and delamination.
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