Connectedness percolation of polydisperse nanofillers_

Talk by Prof. Paul van der Schoot
Group Theory of Polymers and Soft Matter, Eindhoven University of Technology, and Institute for Theoretical Physics, University of Utrecht, The Netherlands
Connectedness percolation of polydisperse nanofillers
There is considerable industrial interest in novel flexible, transparent electrodes for electro-optical applications, also because of dwindling natural reserves of indium, a component of transparent electrodes used, e.g., in LCD display technology. For this purpose frantic research is currently being conducted worldwide into polymeric composites containing electrically conducting inorganic and metallic nanowires, carbon nanotubes, grafite flakes, graphene and so on. One of the objectives of this work is to get as high as possible a conduction for as low as possible a nanoparticle loading but progress is slow.
Unclear is why, e.g., carbon nanotubes dispersed in plastic matrix materials can have such widely diverging electrical percolation thresholds even when their mean physical dimensions and other characteristics seem very similar. In an effort to shed light on this, we applied continuous space connectedness percolation theory to collections of anisometric particles with arbitrary polydispersity in length, width and levels of conduction between them. We find that the percolation threshold is extremely sensitive to even quite modest degrees of polydispersity and of alignment incurred in the processing of the fluid composites before they set and become the final solid product.
We also find that the way polydispersity influences the percolation threshold depends on whether or not the length and width distributions are dependent on each other. Finally, time permitting, I will discuss how the processing conditions influence the percolation threshold, through an analysis of how external fields (magnetic, electric,
mechanical) influence the percolation threshold. We find external orienting fields and excluded-volume interactions to conspire against the formation of a percolating network of rods.

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