Year 2006

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Díez-Pérez, Ismael, Guell, Aleix Garcia, Sanz, Fausto, Gorostiza, Pau, (2006). Conductance maps by electrochemical tunneling spectroscopy to fingerprint the electrode electronic structure Analytical Chemistry 78, (20), 7325-7329

We describe a methodology to perform reliable tunneling spectroscopy in electrochemical media. Sequential in situ tunneling spectra are recorded while the electrochemical potential of the electrode is scanned. Spectroscopic data are presented as conductance maps or conductograms that show the in situ electronic structure of an electrode surface while it undergoes an electrochemical reaction. The conductance map or conductogram represents the redox fingerprint of an electrode/liquid interface in a specific medium and can serve to predict its electrochemical behavior in a quantitative energy scale. The methodology is validated studying the reversible oxidation and passivity of an iron electrode in borate buffer, and we describe the main quantitative information that can be extracted concerning the semiconducting properties of the Fe passive film. This methodology is useful to study heterogeneous catalysis, electrochemical sensing and bioelectronic systems.

Keywords: Passive film, Oxide-film, Stainless-steel, Iron, Microscope, Surfaces, STM, Probes

Castellarnau, Marc, Errachid, Abdelhamid, Madrid, Cristina, Juárez, Antonio, Samitier, Josep, (2006). Dielectrophoresis as a tool to characterize and differentiate isogenic mutants of Escherichia coli Biophysical Journal 91, (10), 3937-3945

In this study we report on an experimental method based on dielectrophoretic analysis to identify changes in four Escherichia coli isogenic strains that differed exclusively in one mutant allele. The dielectrophoretic properties of wild-type cells were compared to those of hns, hha, and hha hns mutant derivatives. The hns and hha genes code respectively for the global regulators Hha and H-NS. The Hha and H-NS proteins modulate gene expression in Escherichia coli and other Gram negative bacteria. Mutations in either hha or hns genes result in a pleiotropic phenotype. A two-shell prolate ellipsoidal model has been used to fit the experimental data, obtained from dielectrophoresis measurements, and to study the differences in the dielectric properties of the bacterial strains. The experimental results show that the mutant genotype can be predicted from the dielectrophoretic analysis of the corresponding cultures, opening the way to the development of microdevices for specific identification. Therefore, this study shows that dielectrophoresis can be a valuable tool to study bacterial populations which, although apparently homogeneous, may present phenotypic variability.

Keywords: H-NS, Dielectric behaviour, Hemolysin genes, Cells, Separation, Expression, Proteins, HHA, Electrorotation, Polarization

Díez-Pérez, Ismael, Sanz, Fausto, Gorostiza, Pau, (2006). Electronic barriers in the iron oxide film govern its passivity and redox behavior: Effect of electrode potential and solution pH Electrochemistry Communications 8, (10), 1595-1602

We have measured in situ the electronic conductance spectra of the passive film formed on an Fe electrode immersed in a borate buffer solution using electrochemical tunneling spectroscopy (ECTS) and electrochemical impedance spectroscopy (EIS) techniques, and we have followed their changes as the electrode is electrochemically oxidized and reduced. We demonstrate that pre-passive Fe(II) oxide and the passive Fe(II)/Fe(III) film, behave as p- and n-type semiconductors, respectively and that their reversible inter-conversion is mediated by the availability of free charge carriers on the electrode surface. ECTS spectra have been also modeled to obtain the main electrochemical kinetic parameters of the electron transfer through both p-Fe(II) and n-Fe(III) oxides at different sample potentials and pHs values. We find that the electronic energy barrier in the oxide and its dependence with electrode potential and solution pH, determine the reactivity and passivity of iron.

Keywords: Electrochemical tunneling spectroscopy, Fe passivity Electronic energy barriers, pH effect on passivity

Díez-Pérez, Ismael, Vericat, Carolina, Gorostiza, Pau, Sanz, Fausto, (2006). The iron passive film breakdown in chloride media may be mediated by transient chloride-induced surface states located within the band gap Electrochemistry Communications 8, (4), 627-632

Despite its tremendous scientific and economic impact, the mechanism that triggers metal passive film breakdown in the presence of aggressive ions remains under discussion. We have studied the iron passive film in chloride media using X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS), electrochemical impedance spectroscopy and electrochemical tunneling spectroscopy (ECTS). Ex situ XPS reveal that the film consists exclusively of an Fe(III) oxide without chloride content. In situ ECTS has been used to build up conductance maps of the Fe electrode during its electrochemical oxidation in a borate buffer solution and its breakdown when the film is grown in the presence of chloride. This conductograms provide direct and in situ experimental evidence of chloride-induced surface states within the band gap of the oxide film (~3.3eV). These states enable new charge exchange pathways that allow hole capture at the surface of the n-type Fe(III) oxide. The blocking of VB processes that occurs in the iron passive film is no longer present in chloride media, and electrode corrosion can proceed through these new states. We propose a simple 3-step mechanism for the process, in which chloride anions form an oxidizing Fe(II) surface intermediate but do not participate directly in the reaction.

Keywords: Electrochemical tunneling spectroscopy, Electronic band structure, Fe passive film, Aqueous chloride corrosion, Semiconductor decomposition, Interface states

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