Tuning the dielectric properties of metallic-nanoparticle/elastomer composites by strain
Tunable metal/dielectric composites are promising candidates for a large number of potential applications in electronics, sensor technologies and optical devices. Here we systematically investigate the dielectric properties of Ag-nanoparticles embedded in the highly flexible elastomer poly-dimethylsiloxane (PDMS). As tuning parameter we use uniaxial and biaxial strain applied to the composite. We demonstrate that both static variations of the filling factor and applied strain lead to the same behavior, i.e., the filling factor of the composite can be tuned by application of strain. In this way the effective static permittivity εeff of the composite can be varied over a very large range. Once the Poisson's ratio of the composite is known, the strain dependent dielectric constant can be accurately described by effective medium theory without any additional free fit parameter up to metal filling factors close to the percolation threshold. It is demonstrated that, starting above the percolation threshold in the metallic phase, applying strain provides the possibility to cross the percolation threshold into the insulating region. The change of regime from conductive phase down to insulating follows the description given by percolation theory and can be actively controlled.