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High-Pressure Study of Bio-inspired Multi-Functional PEDOT:PSS/Nanoclay Nanocomposites Using Atomic Force Microscopy Methods

Bioinspired design has been central in the development of hierarchical nanocomposites. Particularly, the nacre-mimetic brick-and-mortar structure has shown excellent mechanical properties, as well as gas-barrier properties and optical transparency. Along with these intrinsic properties, the layered structure has also been utilized in sensing devices. We extend the multi-functionality of nacre-mimetics by designing an optically transparent and electron conductive coating based on PEDOT:PSS and nanoclays Laponite RD and Cloisite Na+. We carry out extensive characterization of the nanocomposite using transmittance spectra (transparency), conductive atomic force microscopy (conductivity), contact-resonance force microscopy (mechanical properties), and SEM combined with a variety of stress-strain AFM experiments and AFM numerical simulations (internal structure).  We further study the nanoclay’s response to the application of pressure with multifrequency AFM and conductive AFM, whereby increases and decreases in conductivity can occur for the Laponite RD composites.  We offer a possible mechanism to explain the changes in conductivity by modeling the coating as a 1-dimensional multibarrier potential for electron transport, and show that conductivity can change when the separation between the barriers changes under the application of pressure, and that the direction of the change depends on the energy of the electrons. We did not observe changes in conductivity under the application of pressure with AFM for the Cloisite Na+ nanocomposite, which has a large platelet size compared with the AFM probe diameter.  No pressure-induced changes in conductivity were observed in the clay-free polymer either.

Alfredo Díaz González

George Washington University

Created July 5, 2017, Updated October 1, 2018