Semi-metallic, strong and stretchable wet-spun conjugated polymer microfibers†
A dramatic improvement in electrical conductivity is necessary to make conductive polymer fibers viable candidates in applications such as flexible electrodes, conductive textiles, and fast-response sensors and actuators. In this study, high-performance poly(3,4-ethylenedioxythiophene)/poly(styrenesulfonate) (PEDOT/PSS) conjugated polymer microfibers were fabricated via wet-spinning followed by hot-drawing. Due to the combined effects of the vertical hot-drawing process and doping/de-doping the microfibers with ethylene glycol (EG), we achieved a record electrical conductivity of 2804 S cm−1. This is, to the best of our knowledge, a six-fold improvement over the best previously reported value for PEDOT/PSS fibers (467 S cm−1) and a two-fold improvement over the best values for conductive polymer films treated by EG de-doping (1418 S cm−1). Moreover, we found that these highly conductive fibers experience a semiconductor–metal transition at 313 K. They also have superior mechanical properties with a Young's modulus up to 8.3 GPa, a tensile strength reaching 409.8 MPa and a large elongation before failure (21%). The most conductive fiber also demonstrates an extraordinary electrical performance during stretching/unstretching: the conductivity increased by 25% before the fiber rupture point with a maximum strain up to 21%. Simple fabrication of the semi-metallic, strong and stretchable wet-spun PEDOT/PSS microfibers described here could make them available for conductive smart electronics.