Electrical and network properties of flexible silver-nanowire composite electrodes under mechanical strain†
Flexible and conductive silver-nanowire photopolymer composites are fabricated and studied under mechanical strain. The initial resistances of the unstretched flexible composites are between 0.27 Ω mm−1 and 1.2 Ω mm−1 for silver-nanowire concentrations between 120 μg cm−2 and 40 μg cm−2. Stretching of the samples leads to an increased resistance by a factor of between 72 for 120 μg cm−2 and 343 for 40 μg cm−2 at elongations of 23%. In order to correlate network morphology and electrical properties, micrographs are recorded during stretching. The Fiber Image Network Evaluation (FINE) algorithm determines morphological silver-nanowire network properties under stretching. For unstretched and stretched samples, an isotropic nanowire network is found with only small changes in fiber orientation. Monte-Carlo simulations on 2D percolation networks of 1D conductive wires and the corresponding network resistance due to tunneling of electrons at nanowire junctions confirm that the elastic polymer matrix under strain exhibits forces in agreement with Hooke's law. By variation of a critical force distribution the resistance curves are accurately reproduced. This results in a model that is dominated by quantum-mechanical tunneling at nanowire junctions explaining the electrical behavior and the sensitivity of nanowire-composites with different filler concentrations under mechanical strain.
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