Photoassisted Electrochemical Micropatterning of Gold Film

Electrochemical etching is a powerful and popular method for fabricating micropatterns on metal substrates for use in electronic devices, electrochemical sensors, and plasmonic substrates. In order to achieve micropatterning, either a prepatterned insulating layer (mask) or a scanning microelectrode is often required to selectively trigger electrochemical etching at the desired locations. In the present work, we employed a well-focused light beam to enable the photoassisted electrochemical etching of gold film with a spatial resolution close to the optical diffraction limit (∼300 nm). It was found that the simultaneous application of light irradiation and appropriate potential were critical for the oxidative dissolution (i.e., etching) of gold to occur. Superior controllability of light beam allowed for the direct-write micropatterning without the need of mask or probe. Etching kinetics and mechanism were also studied by monitoring the dynamic evolution of optical transparency with a conventional transmission bright-field microscope, together with characterizations on the as-obtained patterns with atomic force microscopy and electron microscopy. This study is anticipated to contribute a feasible method for the micropatterning of gold film with implications for nanoelectronics and electrochemical sensors.