Electro-chemo-mechanical coupling of nanoporous gold at the microscale
The observation of reversible strengthening and stiffening of nanoporous gold (NPG) under electrochemical potential has opened opportunities to exploit this material for multifunctional applications. Yet the complex structural geometry and length-scales involved make a definitive understanding of structural correlations to the behaviors difficult at best. Achievement of coupled electro-chemo-mechanical testing at the micrometer scale is a key step toward this goal. Here, we introduce an experimental approach to investigate the elastic and plastic behaviors of NPG under electrochemical potential at the microscale using a modified nanoindentation setup and multiple load function. The in situ experiments in electrolyte show a significant increase by 32% in strength of pillars in a positive potential regime where oxygen adsorption occurred. This response was found to be reversible, which agrees with macroscopic results, while the elastic modulus was shown to be insensitive to the applied potential - an observation inconsistent with recent bulk dynamic mechanical analysis results.