Electrodeposition is widely used to fabricate tunable nanostructured materials in applications ranging from biosensing to energy conversion. A model based on 3D island growth is widely accepted in the explanation of the initial stages of nucleation and growth in electrodeposition. However, there are regions in the electrodeposition parameter space where this model becomes inapplicable. We use liquid cell transmission electron microscopy along with post situ scanning electron microscopy to investigate electrodeposition in this parameter space, focusing on the effect of the supporting electrolyte, and to shed light on the nucleation and growth of palladium. Using a collection of electron microscopy images and current time transients recorded during electrodeposition, we discover that electrochemical aggregative growth, rather than 3D island growth, best describes the electrodeposition process. We then use this model to explain the change in the morphology of palladium electrodeposits from spherical to open clusters with nonspherical morphology when HCl is added to the electrolyte solution. The enhanced understanding of the early stages of palladium nucleation and growth and the role of electrolyte in this process provides a systematic route toward the electrochemical fabrication of nanostructured materials.
The role of HCl on the structural evolution of nano-scale palladium structures deposited in situ via electrodeposition was explored in-situ using LC-TEM. The morphology of the particles deposited changed from non-porous closed clusters to porous open clusters after the addition of HCl to the electrolyte. The observed growth and current time transient curves were consistent with an aggregative electrochemical growth model.