Developments in pulse plating

23 Nov 2010

Pulsed current deposition or pulse plating has seen markedly increased activity in recent years. Pulse plating is an established technique that is widely used to improve deposit properties in the production of electronic circuitry, e.g. to plate high aspect ratio through-holes and for micrometre copper column fabrication, as well as in nickel plating, damascene plating, composite deposits and nanostructures layers. These areas continue to undergo active development. However, there is also interest in extending the technology to a much wider range of alloy systems and applications.

It is a reflection of this interest that there has been strong support in recent years for a series of annual European Pulse Plating meetings, the fourth of which was held this March in Vienna. A selection of refereed papers from the conference appears in a dedicated issue of Transactions of the Institute of Metal Finishing (September 2010). The issue also includes a brief state-of-the-art review on pulse plating by Clive Larson and Peter Farr, which has been made publicly available online for a limited period (2010, Vol. 88, (5), pp. 237–242).

Larson and Farr note recent work on pulse plating of both hard Cr and potential replacements for chromium such as Ni–W and Co–W; of Ni–Co for tooling applications; of Co based ferromagnetic layers; and of catalytic layers of Pt and Pt–Co. Work is also addressing means to improve traditional zinc based alloy systems for corrosion protection. Current interest in energy systems has led to activity in areas such as thermoelectric Bi alloys and compounds, optoelectronic devices, and pulse electrolytic Ni colouring of anodic Al for selective layers in solar collectors. Substantial research activity has also been found in the production of nanoscale materials and coatings, including nanocomposite structures.

The review also shows how growing confidence in the technology and the increasing maturity of the sector has generated interest in ‘bolting on’ other technologies to enhance the performance of pulse plating further, e.g. pulse magneto-electrolysis and the pulse reverse plating of composite coatings in an ultrasonic field. Some of this work is considered sufficiently advanced to point to near future manufacturing possibilities. However, Larson and Farr highlight the need for more modelling, simulation and statistical experimental design to aid the transfer of research results to industry.


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