Anodic passivation for copper exposed to aqueous NaCl (model seawater) is rate limited by diffusion of a poorly soluble Cu(I) chloro species. As a result, a protective layer of CuCl forms on copper metal (with approx. 1 μm thickness) that is then put under strain at more positive applied potentials with explosive events causing current spikes and particulate product expulsion. In this report, the mechanism for this explosive film rupture and particle expulsion process is shown to occur (i) in the absence of underlying anodic gas evolution, and (ii) linked to the presence/nature of gaseous solutes. The film rupture event is proposed to be fundamentally dependent on gas bubble nucleation (triggered by the release of interfacial stress) with surface tension effects by dissolved gases affecting the current spike pattern. Oxygen O2, hydrogen H2, and helium He suppress current spikes and behave differently to argon Ar, nitrogen N2, and carbon dioxide CO2, which considerably enhance current spikes. Vacuum-degassing the electrolyte solution results in behaviour very similar to that observed in the presence of helium. The overall corrosion rate for copper microelectrodes is compared and parameters linked to passivation and corrosion processes are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Article number113589
JournalJournal of Electroanalytical Chemistry
Early online date26 Oct 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2020


  • Colloid
  • Copper
  • Dissolved gas
  • Electrochemistry
  • Passivation
  • Stochastic

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Chemical Engineering(all)
  • Electrochemistry


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