• anodic aluminium oxide;
  • anodization;
  • morphology;
  • X-ray reflectivity;
  • neutron reflectivity;
  • small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS);
  • ultra-small-angle X-ray scattering (USAXS);
  • small-angle neutron scattering (SANS);
  • porosity;
  • hydration;
  • density

X-ray reflectivity (XRR) and neutron reflectivity (NR), as well as ultra-small-angle X-ray scattering (USAXS), are used to examine the in-plane and surface-normal structure of anodic films formed on aluminium alloy AA2024 and pure aluminium. Aluminium and alloy films up to 3500 Å thick were deposited on Si wafers by electron beam evaporation of ingots. Porous anodic aluminium oxide (AAO) films are formed by polarizing at constant voltage up to 20 V noble to the open circuit potential. The voltage sweet spot (5 V) appropriate for constant-voltage anodization of such thin films was determined for both alloy and pure Al. In addition, a new concurrent voltage- and current-control protocol was developed to prepare films with larger pores (voltages higher than 5 V), but formed at a controlled current so that pore growth is slow enough to avoid stripping the aluminium substrate layer. USAXS shows that the pore size and interpore spacing are fixed in the first 10 s after initiation of anodization. Pores then grow linearly in time, at constant radius and interpore spacing. Using a combination of XRR and NR, the film density and degree of hydration of the films were determined from the ratio of scattering length densities. Assuming a chemical formula Al2O3·xH2O, it was found that x varies from 0.29 for the native oxide to 1.29 for AAO grown at 20 V under concurrent voltage and current control. The average AAO film density of the porous film at the air surface is 2.45 (20) g cm−3. The density of the `barrier' layer at the metal interface is 2.9 (4) g cm−3, which indicates that this layer is also quite porous.