Delay in micro-discharges appearance during PEO of Al: Evidence of a mechanism of charge accumulation at the electrolyte/oxide interface

Abstract : PEO was conducted on Al by applying a pulsed bipolar current. The role of the cathodic polarization on the appearance of micro-discharges (MDs) and on the subsequent formation of the PEO oxide layers is investigated. Various ratios of the charge quantity RCQ = Q p /Q n (defined as the anodic Q p to cathodic Q n charge quantity ratio over one current pulse period) in the range [0.5; 6.0] were selected by changing the waveform parameters of the cathodic current while keeping the waveform of the anodic current unchanged. Results show that the appearance of MDs is delayed with respect to the rising edge of the anodic current; this delay strongly depends on both the processing time and the applied cathodic charge quantity. It is also evidenced that shorter delays promoted by high RCQ values (RCQ > 1) are associated with stronger MDs (large size and long life) that have detrimental effects on the formed PEO oxide layers. Thicker and the more compact oxide layer morphology is achieved with the intermediate RCQ value (RCQ = 0.9) for which the delay of the MDs appearance is high and the MDs softer. Low RCQ (RCQ < 0.9) results in an earlier extinction of the MDs as the process goes on, which leads to poorly oxidized metal. A mechanism of charge accumulation taking place at the oxide/electrolyte interface and arising before the occurrence of dielectric breakdown is proposed to explain the ignition of MDs during pulsed bipolar PEO of aluminium. A close examination of the voltage-time response which can be adequately simulated with an equivalent RC circuit evidences the capacitive behaviour of the oxide layer and therefore confirms this proposed mechanism of charge accumulation.
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J. Martin, A. Nomine, F. Brochard, J. L. Briançon, C. Noël, et al.. Delay in micro-discharges appearance during PEO of Al: Evidence of a mechanism of charge accumulation at the electrolyte/oxide interface. Applied Surface Science, Elsevier, 2017, 410, pp.29-41. ⟨10.1016/j.apsusc.2017.03.088⟩. ⟨hal-02106037⟩

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