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Enhancing the performance of transparent electrodes through the design of new silver nanostructures

  • Madeira, Alexandra
Publication Date
Jul 10, 2018
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Transparent electrodes are a necessary component in a number of devices such as solar cells,flat panel displays, touch screens and light emitting diodes. The most commonly usedtransparent conductor, indium tin oxide (ITO), is expensive and brittle, the latter propertymaking it inappropriate for up-and-coming flexible devices. Films consisting of randomnetworks of solution-synthesized silver nanowires have emerged as a promising alternative toITO. They have transparency and conductivity values better than competing new technologies(e.g. carbon nanotubes films, graphene, conductive polymers, etc.) and comparable to ITO.Furthermore, these silver nanowire films are cheap, flexible, and compatible with roll-to-rolldeposition techniques. The main objectives of this PhD work are to improve the properties ofsilver nanowire electrodes and to study and solve issues that are currently hindering their usein commercial devices. Specifically, I studied the important areas of electrode conductivity andstability. To increase the conductivity of nanowire electrodes, two silver nanostructuresdifferent from what is commercially available were synthesized i) ultra-long nanowires and (ii)branched nanowires. Regarding (i), by using 1.2-propanediol as the medium rather than thetypical ethylene glycol in the polyol synthesis process, as well as the molecular weight of PVP,the temperature of the process, or the concentration of silver nitrate, we obtained silvernanowires with an aspect ratio between their lengths and diameters of 1050. Among all theultra-long silver nanowires elaborated in polyol process reported in the literature, they have themaximum length. The synthesis developed is also cheap and the reaction time takes less than2h. Moreover, they have a high yield of 2 mg/ml. Electrodes with a sheet resistance of 5 Ω/Sqfor a transparency of 94% were obtained (with post thermal treatment applied). However, thispost-deposition anneal is shown to have a small influence on the decrease of the sheetresistance. It is thus not required to elaborate electrodes with good performance, which is veryadvantageous for the elaboration of electrodes on plastic substrates. Regarding (ii), “V-like shape” or “Y-like branched” nanowires were elaborated thanks to the input of ultrasonicirradiation during the polyol process. Unfortunately, their length being short (6 μm), theirinterest is limited to enhance the performance of transparent electrodes. In addition, structuralanalyses of both branched and unbranched nanowires revealed the nanostructures notmonocrystalline. Concerning the stabilities issues, the thermal stability of silver nanowireelectrodes coated with graphene was investigated. This coating allows a better homogeneity ofthe heat through the network, decreasing the number of hot spots and thus increasing thelifetime of the electrodes. The corrosion of silver nanowire and the resulting electrode resistanceincrease over time is a severe problem hindering their use in commercial devices. 11-mercaptoundecanoic acid (MuA) was identified as a promising passivation agent of silvernanowires. Lifetime testing showed that the electrode resistance increased more slowly (12%)than any other passivated electrodes reported in the literature. Furthermore, unlike many otherpassivation methods, the MuA molecule itself does not negatively affect the conductivity ortransparency of the electrode and is very inexpensive, all contributing to the commercialviability of the passivation method.

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