Monitoring Surface Roughness of Copper Electrodeposits Using Scaling Analysis

Additonal authors: Keough, J.. Book title: Proceedings of the 58th Conference of Metallurgists Hosting Copper 2019. Chapter: . Chapter title:

Proceedings, Vol. Proceedings of the 58th Conference of Metallurgists Hosting Copper 2019, 2019

Shepherd, J. L.

During industrial electrowinning of copper, uneven growth can impact current efficiency, cause short-circuits in the cell and negatively impact the final quality of the metal product. Copper electrodeposits can be made smoother by incorporating a host of additives in the electrolyte but uneven copper growth may still occur due to variations in electrolyte composition throughout the cell-house. To quantify roughness, 3D images of the surface may be combined with scaling analysis to gain further insight into the deposit structure. Moreover, scaling analysis may offer a method to predict long-term deposit structure using short-term copper deposits. In this paper, the application of Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM) and scaling analysis are used to monitor copper growth and extract surface roughness characteristics. The cathode was a 304 stainless steel disc that was polished to a mirror finish. Copper was deposited onto this surface over a range of 10, 20 and 30 minutes from an acidic sulfate solution (40 g/L Cu) at 40oC from an electrolyte that contained or was free of guar. AFM images were acquired to obtain 3D topographical information on the samples and scaling analysis was performed to extract the root-mean-squared (rms) roughness, periodicity (grain size), aspect ratio of surface features and growth mechanism. INTRODUCTION During the process of copper electrowinning, the dissolved metal ions are reduced and thereby deposited onto a cathode substrate which is later recovered by stripping the metal from the cathode surface. Although this process is widely used in the industry, the conditions of the deposition procedure may cause the growth of the metal product to be uneven which can not only impact the current efficiency and final copper product quality but may also lead to plant interruptions through short-circuits if the anode and cathode make contact. To create more uniform copper deposits, a host of additives may be included in the electrolyte which may act as brighteners, leveling agents and inhibitors which may include guar gum, glue, thiourea or polysaccharides or polyacrylamides and their industrial use has changed over time (Moats, Luyima, & Cui, 2015). As such, the electrolyte composition is often complex and subtle variations in the solution matrix throughout the cell-house may impact the surface morphology of the final copper product. In an effort to quantify the roughness of copper samples, image analysis is often applied and may include Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM) or Atomic Force Microscopy characterization. While both are appropriate, AFM offers 3-dimensional information which may be used to both qualitatively and quantitatively characterize the surface characteristics.
Keywords: Copper 2019, COM2019