Gold nanorods with conjugated polymer ligands: sintering-free conductive inks for printed electronics†
Metal-based nanoparticle inks for printed electronics usually require sintering to improve the poor electron transport at particle–particle interfaces. The ligands required for colloidal stability act as insulating barriers and must be removed in a post-deposition sintering step. This complicates the fabrication process and makes it incompatible with many flexible substrates. Here, we bind a conjugated, electrically conductive polymer on gold nanorods (AuNRs) as a ligand. The polymer, poly[2-(3-thienyl)-ethyloxy-4-butylsulfonate] (PTEBS), provides colloidal stability and good electron transport properties to stable, sintering-free inks. We confirm that the polymer binds strongly through a multidentate binding motif and provides superior colloidal stability in polar solvents over months by IR and Raman spectrometry and zeta potential measurements. We demonstrate that the developed ligand exchange protocol is directly applicable to other polythiophenes such as poly(3,4-ethylenedioxythiophene):polystyrene sulfonate (PEDOT:PSS). Films of AuNRs coated with above polymers reached conductivities directly after deposition comparable to conventional metal inks after ligand removal and retained their conductivity for at least one year when stored under ambient conditions.