Why is copper locally etched by scanning electrochemical microscopy?

Marisa Sheffer, Daniel Mandler*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


The etching of thin copper films by scanning electrochemical microscopy (SECM) was investigated. It is not trivial that locally injected charge by an oxidized mediator will lead to dissolution of copper as the charge can easily be dissipated by lateral charge propagation. We studied the effect of different parameters, such as thickness of the Cu film and concentration of the mediator, on the efficiency of etching. The feedback current is the sum of three charge transfer contributions: diffusion of mediator species, chemical reaction on the surface and lateral charge propagation across the copper film. We have introduced an approach for isolating the lateral contribution and studied the parameters affecting the fate of the locally injected charge. We found that etching becomes effective once the lateral contribution cannot dissipate the locally injected charge. This occurs as the concentration of the etchant increases or the film thickness decreases. Measuring the steady-state current above Cu films with different thickness, allowed estimating the potential difference across the Cu area underneath the tip. We conclude that driving local processes, such as etching, depends on creating a mechanism which maintains the injected charge focused.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)115-120
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Electroanalytical Chemistry
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2008

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work is supported by the Israel Science Foundation (contract 485–06). The Harvey M. Krueger Family Center for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology of the Hebrew University is acknowledged.


  • Cu
  • Etching
  • Microelectrode
  • Scanning electrochemical microscopy
  • Thin films


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