Document Type


Publication Date



Scanning Kelvin probe force microscopy (SKPFM) is used in corrosion studies to quantify the relative nobility of different microstructural features present within complex metallic systems and thereby elucidate possible corrosion initiation sites. However, Volta potential differences (VPDs) measured via SKPFM in the literature for metal alloys exhibit large variability, making interpretation and application for corrosion studies difficult. We have developed an improved method for referencing SKPFM VPDs by quantifying the closely related work function of the probe relative to an inert gold standard whose modified work function is calculated via density functional theory (DFT). By measuring and tracking changes in the probe vs. gold VPD, this method compensates for some of the complex effects that cause changes in an individual probe's work function. Furthermore, it provides a path toward direct, quantitative comparison of SKPFM results obtained by different researchers. Application of this method to a Cu-Ag-Ti eutectic braze of a steel sample imaged with multiple SKPFM probes of differing compositions led to enhanced repeatability both within and among probe types, as well as enabled the calculation of modified work function values for each of the microstructural constituents present.

Copyright Statement

© The Electrochemical Society, Inc. 2019. All rights reserved. Except as provided under U.S. copyright law, this work may not be reproduced, resold, distributed, or modified without the express permission of The Electrochemical Society (ECS). The archival version of this work was published in Journal of The Electrochemical Society, 166(11), C3018-C3027. doi: 10.1149/2.0041911jes.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.