Carbon black thin films with tunable resistance and optical transparency

Layer-by-layer assembly was used to produce highly conductive thin films of carbon black and polymer. Positively and negatively-charged polyelectrolytes, polyethylenimine (PEI) and poly(acrylic acid) (PAA), were used to stabilize carbon black in aqueous mixtures that were then deposited onto a PET substrate. The effects of sonication and pH adjustment of deposition mixtures on the conductivity and transparency of deposited films was studied, along with drying temperature. Sonication and oven drying at 70 °C produced films with the lowest sheet resistance (∼1500 Ω/sq), which is a bulk resistivity below 0.2 Ω cm for a 14-bilayer film that is 1.3 μm thick. These two variables improve packing and connectivity amongst carbon black particles that results in increased electrical conductivity. Increasing the pH of the PAA-stabilized mixture and decreasing the pH of the PEI-stabilized mixture resulted in transparent films due to increased polymer charge density. These pH-adjusted films have much higher sheet resistance values than their non-adjusted counterparts due to their reduced thickness and patchy deposition. Varying the number of bilayers allows both sheet resistance and optical transparency to be tailored over a broad range. Carbon black-filled thin films able to achieve these levels of resistivity and transparency may find application in a variety of optoelectronic applications.

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Jan, CJ;  Walton, MD; McConnell, EP; Jang, WS; Kim, YS; Grunlan, JC; Carbon, 200644 (10), 1974-1981.

Published in Carbon 2006 / Thin Films