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j o u r n a l o f m a t e r i a l s p r o c e s s i n g t e c h n o l o g y 2 0 9 ( 2 0 0 9 ) 233240

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The inuence of SDS and CTAB surfactants on the surface morphology and surface topography of electroless NiP deposits
R. Elansezhian a , B. Ramamoorthy a, , P. Kesavan Nair b
a

Manufacturing Engineering Section, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Indian Institute of Technology Madras, Chennai 600036, India b Department of Metallurgical & Materials Engineering, Indian Institute of Technology Madras, Chennai 600036, India

a r t i c l e
Article history:

i n f o

a b s t r a c t
The effect of surfactants sodium dodecyl sulphate (SDS) and cetyltrimethyl ammonium bromide (CTAB) on the surface roughness, surface morphology and surface topography of electroless nickel (EN)phosphorus surface protective coating obtained from an alkaline bath is presented in this paper. In this study the inuence of surfactant concentrations on the surface roughness of coated samples were investigated. It was observed that the surface roughness, surface morphology and surface topography of NiP coating were clearly inuenced by the addition of surfactants SDS and CTAB. EN deposits with addition of surfactant

Received 30 August 2007 Received in revised form 18 January 2008 Accepted 24 January 2008

Keywords: Surface roughness Surface morphology Surface topography Surfactants Electroless NiP coatings

SDS and CTAB at a concentration of 0.6 g/l produce a smooth surface and the average roughness (Ra ) value is 1.715 m for SDS and 1.607 m for CTAB which is less than the Ra value of EN deposit without surfactant addition (1.885 m). The mean average roughness (Ra ) value with addition of surfactant is 1.796 m. EN deposit with addition of surfactants consists of a signicant fraction of particles of nickel. In the presence of SDS, ne nickel particles have dispersed uniformly on the substrate surface resulting in smoother surface nish of the deposited layers. In the presence of CTAB, at lower concentrations (upto 0.6 g/l) coalescence of nickel particles have been deposited on the substrate surface and at the higher concentration (above 0.6 g/l) uniformly improved surface nish of the deposited layer is resulted. The complete experimental details, results obtained and their analysis are presented in this paper. 2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

1.

Introduction

Electroless nickel (EN) coating is a well-established surface engineering process that involves deposition of a metalmetalloid alloy coating on various substrates. Engineering applications for electroless nickel can be found in virtually every industry. Various physical characteristics of EN coatings, such as hardness, wear resistance, coating uni-

formity and corrosion resistance makes this coating as a choice for many engineering applications (Mallory and Hajdu, 1991). Electroless nickel continues to be a surface coating of increasing importance in industrial application today (Riedel, 1991). Electroless nickel coatings has a wide range of commercial applications due to adaptability for uniform coating on complex shapes (Winowlin Jappes et al., 2005). Good bearing properties in any part are obtained when the surface has large

Corresponding author. Tel.: +91 44 22574674; fax: +91 44 2257 8578. E-mail addresses: elansezhianr@yahoo.co.in (R. Elansezhian), ramoo@iitm.ac.in (B. Ramamoorthy), pkn@iitm.ac.in (P.K. Nair). 0924-0136/$ see front matter 2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved. doi:10.1016/j.jmatprotec.2008.01.057

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number of irregularities. If the surface is perfectly smooth then seizure would occur due to difculty of maintaining the lubricating oil lm. The rate of wear is proportional to the surface areas in contact and the load per unit area. Thus it is seen that different requirements demand different types of surfaces. All smooth surfaces possess some degree of roughness, even if only at the atomic level. For man-made surfaces, this roughness arises due to the manufacturing process which may involve chemical deposition, grinding, polishing, etching or several other commonly used techniques. Correct function of the fabricated component often is critically dependent on its degree of roughness. Every machining operation leaves characteristic evidence on the machined surface. This evidence in the form of nely spaced micro-irregularities left by the cutting tool which are termed as surface irregularity or surface roughness (Wolf, 1996). Roughness is sometimes an undesirable property, as it may cause friction, wear, drag and fatigue, but it is sometimes benecial, as it allows surfaces to trap lubricants and prevents them from welding together. There are numerous problems caused by surface roughness. Although these problems tend to be application-specic, they can be classied into four groups: excess light scatter, mechanical malfunction, environmental instability, and cosmetic acceptability. In optical applications, the primary motivation in measuring surface roughness is to estimate how much the surface will scatter light at the intended wavelength(s) of operation. Excess scatter can result in system nonperformance for sensing optics, imaging optics, laser optics and numerous others (Stover, 1995). In non-optical applications, excess surface roughness can lead to mechanical malfunctions. For example, computer hard disks have a narrow tolerance band for acceptable roughness. If the surface is too smooth, the read/write head may bind to the surface of the disk. If the surface is too rough, the head may be unable to y over the disk surface on its air cushion in the proper manner (Mason, 1993). Another example of mechanical malfunction can be found in high-performance engine machine parts which are required to move or rotate at high speed without wear. Excess surface roughness can lead to unacceptably high levels of frictional heating, causing damage and even failure (Thompson et al., 2004). Rollers used in almost any application from computer printers and plotters to pressing metals, papers and lms in factory environments require careful control of surface quality to ensure the quality of the nished product (Hirokazu Ando et al., 1998). Surface roughness can affect cosmetic appearance of a surface. Although this may appear to be the most trivial of the problems caused by surface roughness, it is often important in terms of potential lost revenue (Feist and William, 1994). Hence controlling surface roughness is important in terms of functional and quality aspects. Electroless nickel deposition has become commercially important for nishing steel, aluminium, copper, plastics and many other materials (Mallory and Hajdu, 1991). In this process, metal deposition is driven by the catalytic oxidation of the reductant on the substrate surface (Riedel, 1991). Major advantages over the electrodeposition process include the formation of a uniform deposit on irregular surfaces, direct deposition on surface activated non-conductors and the formation of less porous, more corrosion-resistant deposits (Baudrand, 1994). Due to such var-

ied applications and requirements investigations have been carried out with the aim of improving specic aspects of the product or the process. The effect of adding surfactants to the bath is an area which is not explored adequately. In this investigation surfactants are added to the electrolyte bath and their effects on the surface nish are studied. Surfactants are surface active agents that lower the surface tension of a liquid, allowing easier spreading, and lower the interfacial tension between two liquids. Surfactants reduce the surface tension of water by adsorbing at the liquidgas interface. Many surfactants assemble in the bulk solution into aggregates known as micelles. The concentration at which surfactants begin to form micelles is known as the critical micelle concentration or CMC. A surfactant can be classied by the presence of formally charged groups in its head. A nonionic surfactant has no charge groups in its head and an ionic surfactant carries a net charge. If the charge is negative, the surfactant is called anionic; if the charge is positive, it is called cationic. Many attempts have been made to nd out the effect of surfactants on the roughness of electrodeposited NiP coatings. Tripathy et al. (1997) studied the effect of addition of sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS) on the surface morphology and reported that SDS addition in the bath improved the surface morphology. Wheeler et al. (2004) presented a numerical model to explain the inuence of catalytic surfactant on roughness evaluation during lm growth of electrochemical or chemical reaction and reported that the surface of electroplated NiP deposited with SDS addition was smoother at higher concentrations. Alsari et al. (2001) studied the effect of SDS solutions as gelation media on the formation of polyethersulfone (PES) membranes and reported that the roughness of membranes increased with an increase in SDS concentration. Medina-Valtierra et al. (2007) studied the inuence of cetyltrimethyl ammonium bromide (CTAB) on the roughness of titania solgel lms and reported that the solgel lms prepared with surfactant showed a granular microstructure and are composed of irregular particles on the surface and enhanced the photocatalytic activity. However, limited data are available concerning the effects of anionic surfactant SDS and cationic surfactant CTAB, on the electroless nickel deposits. In this study, the effect of surfactants SDS and CTAB addition was investigated on the surface roughness, and microstructure of EN-coated samples.

2.
2.1.

Experimental
Preparation of the substrates

In this work, mild steel specimens of about 24 mm diameter and 7 mm thickness were prepared from rod stock to be used as substrates. All the specimens were then solutionised at 800 C for 2 h and furnace cooled to ensure uniform initial microstructural conditions. The samples were then nished by grinding followed by disc polishing. The typical surface nish values measured using a stylus instrument of the nished samples are as follows: average roughness value is the average of peak and valley distances measured along the centerline of one cutoff length (0.762 mm) (Ra ) = 0.57 m, maximum between peak and valley is the

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value of the vertical distance between the highest peak and lowest valley (Rmax ) = 3.77 m, and 10 point average, is an average of the ve highest peaks and the ve lowest valleys (Rz ) = 3.03 m. The step-by-step cleaning procedure employed prior to plating consists of cleaning the substrate with acetone, rinsing with distilled water, ultrasonic cleaning in methanol, acid pickling for 1 min (8% H2 SO4 by volume), rinsing in distilled water followed by a methanol wash.

2.2.

Plating bath and operating conditions

The composition of the plating bath for electroless NiP deposition had nickel chloride as the source of nickel, sodium hypo-phosphite as the reducing agent, sodium citrate as the stabilizer and ammonium chloride as the complexing agent. The specic bath compositions and plating conditions used are presented in Table 1. The surfactant SDS was added into solution before electroless nickel deposition with various concentrations ranging from 0.15 g/l to 1.5 g/l and CTAB was added with concentrations ranging from 0.15 g/l to 1.8 g/l. Temperature of the plating bath was maintained at 87 C (1 C). The pH of the bath was maintained between 9 and 10 by the addition of sufcient quantity of ammonia solution as and when required. The electrolyte was heated indirectly by an electrically heated oil bath whose temperature was regulated by a Proportional Integral Derivative (PID) controller. The temperature of the oil medium was controlled and the corresponding temperature of the electrolyte was monitored using a thermometer. The coating was done for a period of 2 h with total initial volume of the plating bath restricted to 150 ml (unless otherwise mentioned).

Fig. 1 Average surface roughness of EN deposits vs. concentration of SDS surfactant.

3.
3.1.

Results and discussions


Surface roughness of electroless NiP deposits

2.3.

Analysis of deposits

Surface roughness of EN deposits were measured using a stylus instrument. The microstructures of the electroless nickel deposits were observed using a high-resolution scanning electron microscope (HRSEM). The surface topography of the EN-coated samples was observed by atomic force microscope (AFM). The elemental analyses of the EN deposits were analyzed using energy dispersive analysis of X-rays (EDAX).

The variation of average roughness value with surfactant concentration is shown in Figs. 1 and 2. At higher surfactant concentration (0.6 g/l and above) the starting of the plating reaction was delayed (by as much as 40 min) due to the formation of surfactant monolayer on the substrate surface preventing direct contact of electrolyte with substrate. At this point a nickel strike was given by briey dipping the substrate in the electrolyte having no surfactant addition. At lower concentrations of surfactants, the average surface roughness value steadily increased till concentration reached about 0.6 g/l. Above this value on continuing the reaction after the nickel strike, the roughness value got stabilized at values ranging from 1.579 m to 1.884 m for SDS. The mean Ra value is 1.796 m which is less than the Ra value of EN deposit without surfactant addition (1.885 m). Fig. 5 shows the surface morphology of SEM images of EN deposited with increasing SDS concentrations. In Fig. 5(b)(d) the topography

Table 1 Compositions of plating bath for electroless NiP deposits used in experiments Particulars Bath A
NiCl2 H2 NaO2 PH2 O Na3 C6 H5 O7 NH4 Cl NaC12 H25 SO4 C19 H42 BrN Temperature pH 30 40 25 50 01.5 87 C (1 C) 910

Quantity (g/l) Bath B


30 40 25 50 01.8 87 C (1 C) 910

Fig. 2 Average surface roughness of EN deposits vs. concentration of CTAB surfactant.

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of NiP deposits corresponding to deposits having increasing concentrations of SDS is shown. The roughness of surface progressively increases as the amount of particles deposited on the coating surface is increased. In the presence of CTAB, the average Ra value steadily increases at lower concentration (up to 0.45 g/l) and then it drops at 0.6 g/l concentration. As the concentration increases the Ra value is stable (average of 2.511 m) and is presented in Fig. 2. At lower concentration of CTAB, the surface morphology shows a non-smooth state with nodular appearance on the surface of coated specimens and as the concentration increases a smooth state is obtained and is shown in Fig. 6. The effect of surfactant on the surface roughness of EN deposition is an interesting aspect. The transfer of surfactant molecules from hydrated bulk phase to a monolayer at the two-phase interface (air/liquid or solid/liquid) requires a prescribed molecular concentration of the surfactant at the interface corresponding to a prescribed surfactant concentration in liquid phase (Hutchinson and Shinoda, 1967). This concentration is specic to the characteristics of the interface of the phases and the surfactant involved (Nilsson, 1957). The formation of this monolayer will delay the progress of the EN plating by preventing direct contact of the electrolyte with the substrate. However, turbulence or convective currents can disrupt such monolayer locally, allowing eventual starting of the reaction. As stated earlier, in the present study we observed that at 0.6 g/l of surfactant concentration, the plating reaction takes approximately 40 min for SDS and 20 min for CTAB. The difference in this time could perhaps be related to the stability of the monolayer. On giving preliminary nickel strike the delay in starting the reaction was eliminated. This could be due to the creation of less favorable conditions for the formation of the adsorbed monolayer at the substrate surface. A second having a bearing on surface roughness value aspect which has to be considered is the possible interaction between surfactant molecules and the colloidal particles generated due to EN reaction per se which can have an inuence on the size of colloidal particle so generated. Janczuk et al. (1994) studied the surface free energy of uorite in the presence of SDS and reported that as the concentration of surfactant increases, the SDS molecules at the solid/solution interface are adsorbed forming a stable monolayer. If this is the case, this could be a basis of an explanation for the delay in the initiation of the reaction as observed in the present study. Kekicheff et al. (1989) studied the effect of adsorption of CTAB on mica surfaces below critical micelle concentration and reported the formation of similar stable adsorbed layer at higher concentrations. At lower surfactant concentrations it was observed that the bath becomes unstable after some time (about an hour) and chemical reaction takes place over entire bulk of the solution in preference to the controlled autocatalytic reaction over the specimen surface alone. Due to this phenomenon, at lower concentration of SDS, on conclusion of the reaction it was observed that considerable amount of ne nickel particles settle down at the bottom of the container rather than forming an adherent coating as intended. Fine nickel particles produced originally at the electrolyte/substrate interface attach themselves to the hydrogen gas generated concomitantly and rise to the surface of the bath. Subsequently as the hydrogen

Fig. 3 Average surface roughness and nickel deposited vs. concentration of SDS surfactant.

gas bubbles escapes, the attached nickel particles sink and get scattered due to turbulence in the electrolyte bulk and reach locations other than substrate surface. Some of such ne nickel particles get deposited on the sample surface also. This explains why initially (upto 0.6 g/l) there is an increase in the surface roughness of the EN coating. The amount of nickel deposited on the substrate surface is increased with increase in surfactant concentration. The variation of nickel deposited with surfactant concentration is shown in Figs. 3 and 4. In the presence of SDS and CTAB surfactants the amount of nickel deposited on the substrate surface steadily increase with increase in surfactant concentration. If the surface tension values are such that, its vertical component is just sufcient to counteract the buoyancy and effect of turbulence then the otation of these colloidal particles with the hydrogen bubbles is prevented (Winowlin Jappes, 2004). This value is likely to be specic to the surfactant involved. Once this value is reached the colloidal particles will not leave the substrate and the consequences will be a sudden drop in the surface roughness value as observed in Figs. 1 and 2. Further, any subsequent increase in the

Fig. 4 Average surface roughness and nickel deposited vs. concentration of CTAB surfactant.

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surfactant concentration will not have any inuence on the surface roughness, since the required value of surface tension is already achieved. This explains the stable roughness value beyond 0.6 g/l concentration of SDS and CTAB and the amount of nickel deposited on the substrate surface steadily increase with increase in surfactant concentration as presented in Figs. 3 and 4. As already mentioned at higher SDS concentration the surface roughness is less than that for conventional deposit. It is apparent that SDS addition during NiP deposit reduced the roughness. Lin and Duh (2006) reported that the surface was smoother for SDS added deposition than that for conventional one in case of electrodeposited NiP layer as an under bump metallization. Chen et al. (2000) observed that by adding SDS during electrodeposition of NiP

it is possible to improve the surface morphology and surface roughness of the deposit. Young et al. (2001) reported that SDS addition improved the surface morphology and surface roughness of NiP under bump metallization. Wheeler et al. (2004) presented a numerical model to explain the inuence of catalytic surfactant on roughness evaluation during lm growth of electrochemical or chemical reaction and reported that the surface of electroplated NiP deposited with SDS addition was smoother at higher concentrations. The observations based on the experimental results conducted in this work were matching with the results of the above reported research work. However, other observed phenomena such as initiation and progress of instability of the bath were not considered as in the present case.

Fig. 5 SEM micrographs (1000) of electroless NiP deposited with various SDS concentrations: (a) without SDS addition; (b) 0.15 g/l; (c) 0.3 g/l; (d) 0.45 g/l; (e) 0.6 g/l; (f) 0.75 g/l; (g) 0.9 g/l; (h) 1.05 g/l; (i) 1.2 g/l; (j) 1.35 g/l; (k) 1.5 g/l.

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3.2.

Surface morphology of electroless NiP deposits

The morphology of the deposits was analyzed by employing scanning electron microscope (SEM). The SEM micrographs of electroless NiP deposits with different concentrations of SDS and CTAB are presented in Figs. 5 and 6, respectively. When the surfactant concentration is lower the matrix of the deposit consists of a signicant fraction of particles of nickel which had actually left the substrate and then got captured back and integrated to the substrate surface. Evidence for this is provided by the set of micrographs (Figs. 5(b)(d) and 6(a)(c)). It is interesting to note that in the case of electroless NiP deposit without surfactant, the dispersion of Ni particles seem to be less (Fig. 5(a)) when compared to deposit with surfactant. With addition of surfactant the amount of Ni particle deposition is more. The reason is the Ni particles produced inside the electrolyte is deposited on the substrate surface and sur-

factant addition does not allow the Ni particles to escape to the top surface and get deposited on the region other than the substrate surface. Evidence is provided in Figs. 3 and 4. As the concentration of SDS surfactant increases from 0.6 g/l smooth surface is formed and is presented by set of micrographs (Fig. 5(e)(j)). As the concentration of CTAB surfactant increases from 0.6 g/l, surface morphology has changed from non-smooth nodular appearance to a smooth surface and evidence is provided by the set of SEM micrographs (Fig. 6(d)(k)).

3.3.

Surface topography of electroless NiP deposits

The topography of the deposits was analyzed by employing atomic force microscope (AFM). The AFM images of EN deposits without and with SDS and CTAB are presented in Figs. 79, respectively. Fig. 7 shows surface topography of EN deposit with no addition of surfactant. Without surfactant,

Fig. 6 SEM micrographs (1000) of EN deposited with various CTAB concentrations: (a) 0.15 g/l; (b) 0.3 g/l; (c) 0.45 g/l; (d) 0.6 g/l; (e) 0.75 g/l; (f) 0.9 g/l; (g) 1.05 g/l; (h) 1.2 g/l; (i) 1.35 g/l; (j) 1.5 g/l; (k) 1.65 g/l; (l) 1.80 g/l.

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the Ni particle deposited on the substrate surface gives rise to peaks and valleys. The average Ra value is about 1.885 m. Figs. 8 and 9 show the surface topography of EN deposits with addition of surfactant SDS and CTAB (0.6 g/l). With addition of surfactant the amount of Ni deposited on the substrate surface is more and uniform. The AFM images of Figs. 8 and 9 indicate with surfactant addition the surface appears to be relatively smooth and the Ra value is 1.715 m for SDS and 1.607 m for CTAB.

4.

Conclusions

Based on the experimental results and analysis, the following conclusions have been drawn which clearly indicate that there is a possibility of signicant improvement in the average surface nish of electroless NiP deposited layers. Fig. 7 AFM image of EN deposits with no surfactant. 1. The surface nish of the coated layer signicantly improved when the concentration of the surfactant exceeds about 0.6 g/l. But at the lower levels of concentration the surface nish was poor. 2. With SDS, ne nickel particles have dispersed uniformly on the substrate surface resulting in smoother surface nish of the deposited layers. 3. In the presence of CTAB, at lower concentrations, coalescence of nickel particles have been deposited on the substrate surface and at the higher concentration uniformly improved surface nish of the deposited layer is resulted.

references

Fig. 8 AFM image of EN deposits in the presence of SDS surfactant (0.6 g/l).

Fig. 9 AFM image of EN deposits in the presence of CTAB surfactant (0.6 g/l).

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