Current-voltage characteristics of nanoplatelet-based conductive nanocomposites
© Oskouyi et al.; licensee Springer. 2014
Received: 1 April 2014
Accepted: 18 July 2014
Published: 29 July 2014
In this study, a numerical modeling approach was used to investigate the current-voltage behavior of conductive nanoplatelet-based nanocomposites. A three-dimensional continuum Monte Carlo model was employed to randomly disperse the nanoplatelets in a cubic representative volume element. A nonlinear finite element-based model was developed to evaluate the electrical behavior of the nanocomposite for different levels of the applied electric field. Also, the effect of filler loading on nonlinear conductivity behavior of nanocomposites was investigated. The validity of the developed model was verified through qualitative comparison of the simulation results with results obtained from experimental works.
KeywordsNanocomposites Conductive nanoplatelets Current-voltage characteristics
In recent years, the nonlinear electrical conductivity behavior of nanoparticle-modified polymers has received considerable attention by researchers, and several studies have been carried out to investigate the current-voltage characteristics of conductive nanocomposites. Even though several studies investigated the nonohmic conductivity behavior of insulator polymers filled with conductive spherical and stick-like inclusions [1–5], to the best of the authors' knowledge, all of the research in this field has been limited to experimental works. Experimental research devoted to the electric properties of nanoplatelet-based nanocomposites investigated the electrical conductivity of polymers with exfoliated graphite sheets with sizes varying from a few microns to several hundreds of a micron [6–10], which allows for only limited prediction of the conductivity behavior of nanocomposites with submicron size inclusions.
These limitations motivated the present authors to conduct a numerical study to investigate the current-voltage behavior of polymers made electrically conductive through the uniform dispersion of conductive nanoplatelets. Specifically, the nonlinear electrical characteristics of conductive nanoplatelet-based nanocomposites were investigated in the present study. Three-dimensional continuum Monte Carlo modeling was employed to simulate electrically conductive nanocomposites. To evaluate the electrical properties, the conductive nanoplatelets were assumed to create resistor networks inside a representative volume element (RVE), which was modeled using a three-dimensional nonlinear finite element approach. In this manner, the effect of the voltage level on the nanocomposite electrical behavior such as electrical resistivity was investigated.
Monte Carlo modeling
J0 = e/2πh(β Δs)2 and
In the first step of this work, a three-dimensional continuum percolation model based on Monte Carlo simulation was used to study the percolation behavior of an insulator matrix reinforced with conductive nanoplatelet fillers. Additional details on this modeling approach can be found in an earlier publication . In the simulation, circular nanoplatelets are randomly generated and added to the RVE. The shortest distance between adjacent particles is calculated, and particles with distance between them shorter than the cutoff distance are grouped into clusters. The formation of a cluster connecting two parallel faces of the RVE is considered the formation of a percolation network that allows electric current to pass through the RVE, rendering it conductive.
Finite element modeling
where I ij is the electrical current passing between the ith and jth node; k ij is the conductance of the resistor between nodes i and j; and V i is the voltage of the ith node measured with respect to a node connected to ground. The system of the nonlinear equations governing the electrical behavior of the nanocomposite was obtained by assembling the governing equations for the individual elements. The resulting nonlinear system of equations was solved employing an iterative method.
Results and discussion
Comparison with experimental data
Graphene nanoplatelets were dispersed in acetone by sonication using a probe sonicater in an ice bath. In the following, epoxy was added to the mixture and sonication was repeated. The solvent was evaporated by heating the mixture on a magnetic stir plate and stirring with a Teflon-coated magnet. Remaining acetone was removed by using a vacuum chamber. The curing agent was added to the mixture and mixed with a high-speed mechanical shear mixer. The mixture was again degassed using the vacuum chamber and subsequently poured into a mold. A 2-h cure cycle was then performed at 120°C. Resulting samples were machined into circular disks with 30-mm diameter and 3-mm thickness. The sample volume resistivities were measured at different applied voltages employing a Keithley 6517A electrometer connected to a Keithley test fixture (Keithley Instruments, Cleveland, Ohio, USA).Data in Figure 8 depicting the resistivity behavior of the epoxy nanocomposite samples was normalized with respect to the resistivity measured at an applied voltage of 10 V. Samples with 1 and 1.25% graphene volume fraction exhibited high resistivity levels indicating a filler loading below the percolation threshold. For higher graphene volume fractions of 1.75 and 2.25%, measurements indicated that percolation was achieved, and resistivity was found to decrease with the increase of the applied electric field. As predicted by the preceding modeling work, sample resistivity was found to be less sensitive to the applied electrical field for higher filler loadings. Hence, modeling and simulation results are qualitatively in good agreement, indicating the validity of the assumptions undertaken for the numerical modeling. However, the data presented in Figures 7 and 8 also signify that further studies are warranted to establish a quantitative agreement between numerical and experimental results.
Characterization of resistivity behavior
where α is an index which generally varies between −1 and 0. The value of α is indicative of the nonlinearity of the current-voltage relationship, i.e., α = 0 corresponds to ohmic behavior, and α decreases with increasing nonlinearity of the current-voltage curve; r is a parameter relating to the resistivity of the nanocomposite when the electrical power passing through the sample is 1 W .
In this study, the current-voltage behavior of conductive nanoplatelet-based nanocomposites was investigated. To this end, a numerical modeling approach was developed. The simulations predicted the resistivity of nanoplatelet-based nanocomposites to be strongly affected by the applied electric field. The nanocomposites exhibit nonohmic behavior, that is, resistivity is a nonlinear function of the applied electric field. Further, nanocomposite resistivity was ascertained to decrease with increasing voltage, while the degree of nonlinear behavior was found to decline with rising filler volume fraction. A good qualitative agreement was observed between simulations and experimental data, the latter of which was obtained employing measurements on nanographene/epoxy nanocomposites. The qualitative agreement between numerical and experimental studies encourages conducting a more comprehensive study to establish a quantitative agreement. The analysis further revealed that nanocomposite resistivity as a function of electrical power can be described by an exponential relation, where the exponent is a measure of the deviation from nonohmic behavior of the conductive nanocomposite.
d t , tunneling distance
e, electron charge
E, applied electric field
h, Planck's constant
I, electrical current
J, quantum tunneling current density
k, conductance of tunneling resistor
L, dimension of representative volume element
m, electron mass
P, electric power
r, resistivity parameter
R, radius of circular nanoplatelets
s 1 , s 2 , limits of barrier at Fermi level
Δs = s2 − s1
V, voltage across insulator
V f, filler volume fraction
α, nonlinearity factor
β, correction factor
λ, height of barrier for quantum tunneling
ρ, electrical resistivity
σ, electrical conductivity
This research work was supported by the following organizations: Alberta Innovates-Technology Futures, ROSEN Swiss AG, and Syncrude Canada Ltd.
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