Atomic Layer Electrodeposition

Science  07 Dec 2012:
Vol. 338, Issue 6112, pp. 1300-1301
DOI: 10.1126/science.1231853

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The growth of ultrathin films is generally hindered by roughening and three-dimensional mound formation. Atomic layer deposition (ALD), in which atomic layer control and conformal growth are achieved through sequential, self-limiting surface reactions (1), can eliminate or reduce such roughening. One application of ALD is to deposit ultrathin layers of expensive metals such as Pt that are used, for example, as the catalyst in protonexchange membrane fuel cells (2). Besides the economic incentives to produce ultrathin films (3), there are also scientific payoffs—they often have catalytic, electronic, or magnetic properties that are not found in the bulk material (46). Although ALD processes are usually conducted in the vapor phase, Liu et al. (7) show on page 1327 of this issue that they can sequentially electrodeposit two-dimensional Pt layer by layer by simply pulsing the applied electrochemical potential in a single plating bath. The process is inexpensive and rapid. Because each layer is produced by cycling the potential rather than by exchange of reactants, electrochemical ALD could be orders of magnitude faster than vapor-phase ALD.