Alternating current impedance imaging of high-resistance membrane pores using a scanning electrochemical microscope. Application of membrane electrical shunts to increase measurement sensitivity and image contrast. Academic Article uri icon


  • Whether an individual pore in a porous membrane can be imaged using scanning electrochemical microscopy (SECM), operated in ac impedance mode, is determined by the magnitude of the change in the total impedance of the imaging system as the SECM tip is scanned over the pore. In instances when the SECM tip resistance is small relative to the internal pore resistance, the total impedance changes by a negligible amount, rendering the pore invisible during impedance imaging. A simple solution to this problem is to introduce a low-impedance electrical shunt (i.e., a salt bridge) across the membrane. This principle is demonstrated by imaging polycarbonate membranes (6-12-microm thickness) containing between 1 and 2000 conical-shaped pores (60-nm- and 2.5-microm-diameter openings) using an approximately 1-microm-radius Pt tip. Theory and experiments show that image contrast (the change in ac current measured as the probe is scanned over the pore) is inversely proportional to the total resistance of the membrane and can be increased by a factor of approximately 50x by introducing a low-resistance electrical shunt across the membrane. Remarkably, SECM images of membranes containing a single high-resistance (approximately 1 G Omega) pore can only be imaged by short-circuiting the membrane. Image contrast also becomes independent of membrane resistance when an electrical shunt is used, allowing for more quantitative comparisons of the features in ac impedance images of different membranes.

published proceedings

  • Anal Chem

author list (cited authors)

  • Ervin, E. N., White, H. S., Baker, L. A., & Martin, C. R.

citation count

  • 42

complete list of authors

  • Ervin, Eric Nathan||White, Henry S||Baker, Lane A||Martin, Charles R

publication date

  • September 2006