Transparent and Conductive Carbon Nanotube Multilayer Thin Films Suitable as an Indium Tin Oxide Replacement



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Transparent electrodes made from metal oxides suffer from poor flexibility and durability. Highly transparent and electrically conductive thin films based on carbon nanotubes (CNTs) were assembled as a potential indium tin oxide (ITO) replacement using layer-by-layer (LbL) assembly. The ultimate objective of this dissertation work is to produce CNT-based assemblies with sheet resistance below 100 Omega/sq and visible light transmission greater than 85 percent. The alternate deposition of positively charged poly(diallyldimethylammonium chloride) [PDDA] and CNTs stabilized with negatively charged deoxycholate (DOC) exhibit linear film growth and thin film properties can be precisely tuned. Ellipsometry, quartz crystal microbalance, and UV-vis were used to measure the growth of these films as a function of PDDA-CNT bilayers deposited, while TEM, SEM, and AFM were used to visualize the nanostructure of these films.

Following a literature review describing potential ITO substitutes and LbL technology, the influence of CNT type on optoelectronic performance of LbL assemblies is described. Three different types of nanotubes were investigated: (1) multiwalled carbon nanotubes (MWNTs), (2) few-walled carbon nanotubes (FWNT), and (3) purified single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWNTs). SWNTs produced the most transparent (>85 percent visible light transmittance) and electrically conductive (148 S/cm, 1.62 kOmega/sq) 20-bilayer films with a 41.6 nm thickness, while MWNT-based films are much thicker and more opaque. A 20-bilayer PDDA/(MWNT DOC) film is approximately 103 nm thick, with a conductivity of 36 S/cm and a transmittance of 30 percent.

In an effort to improve both transparency and electrical conductivity, heat and acid treatments were studied. Heating films to 300 degree C reduced sheet resistance to 701 Omega/sq (618 S/cm conductivity, 38.4 nm thickness), with no change in transparency, owing to the removal of insulating component in the film. Despite improving conductivity, heating is not compatible with most plastic substrates, so acid doping was investigated as an alternate means to enhance properties. Exposing SWNT-based assemblies to HNO3 vapor reduced sheet resistance of a 10 BL film to 227 Omega/sq. Replacing SWNTs with double walled carbon nanotubes (DWNTs) provided further reduction in sheet resistance due to the greater metallic of DWNT. A 5 BL DWNT film exhibited the lowest 104 Omega/sq sheet resistance (4200 S/cm conductivity, 22.9 nm thickness) with 84 percent transmittance after nitric acid treatment. DWNT-based assemblies maintained their low sheet resistance after repeated bending and also showed electrochemical stability relative to ITO. This work demonstrates the excellent optoelectronic performance, mechanical flexibility, and electrochemical stability of CNT-based assemblies, which are potentially useful as flexible transparent electrodes for a variety of flexible electronics.