pH-Induced Changes in the SERS Spectrum of Thiophenol at Gold Electrodes during Cyclic Voltammetry

Jorn D. Steen, Anouk Volker, Daniël R. Duijnstee, Andy S. Sardjan, Wesley R. Browne*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Thiophenol is a model compound used in the study of self-assembly of arylthiols on gold surfaces. In particular, changes in the surface-enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) spectra of these self-assembled monolayers (SAMs) with a change of conditions have been ascribed to, for example, differences in orientation with respect to the surface, protonation state, and electrode potential. Here, we show that potential-induced changes in the SERS spectra of SAMs of thiophenol on electrochemically roughened gold surfaces can be due to local pH changes at the electrode. The changes observed during the potential step and cyclic voltammetry experiments are identical to those induced by acid–base switching experiments in a protic solvent. The data indicate that the potential-dependent spectral changes, assigned earlier to changes in molecular orientation with respect to the surface, can be ascribed to changes in the pH locally at the electrode. The pH at the electrode can change as much as several pH units during electrochemical measurements that reach positive potentials where oxidation of adventitious water can occur. Furthermore, once perturbed by applying positive potentials, the pH at the electrode takes considerable time to recover to that of the bulk solution. It is noted that the changes in pH even during cyclic voltammetry in organic solvents can be equivalent to the addition of strong acids, such as CF3SO3H, and such effects should be considered in the study of the redox chemistry of pH-sensitive redox systems and potential-dependent SERS in particular.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7680-7687
Number of pages8
JournalThe Journal of Physical Chemistry. C: Nanomaterials and Interfaces
Issue number17
Early online date20-Apr-2022
Publication statusPublished - 5-May-2022

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