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Single wall carbon nanotube composite nanofibres from electrospun polyacrylonitrile copolymer as a potential transparent conductor Mertens, Joël


Diversifying and securing sources of energy is considered one of the greatest challenges that humanity faces over the next 50 years. Of all the potential energy sources, solar energy is one of the most promising, with costs dropping and capacity increasing at an exponential rate. As new photovoltaic technologies become available, the need to develop new transparent conductor technologies with a range of functionality increases. The potential for using electrospinning as a method to develop a transparent conductor based on carbon nanofibres is explored in this study. Electrospinning has great potential for this type of application due to its ability to create fibres with high aspect ratios and the ability of the process to easily scale up. A copolymer of polyacrylonitrile (PAN), polyacrylonitrile-co-methyl acrylate (PAN-co-MA) is characterized and explored as a precursor for creating carbon nanofibres. By exploring and specifying the solution properties, future work using PAN-co-MA can be optimized more efficiently. In addition to PAN-co-MA, varying amounts of single wall carbon nanotubes (SWNT) were added to the spinning solution to determine how composite SWNT/carbon nanofibres perform compared to the original carbon nanofibres. Varying carbonization temperatures from 700˚C to 1000˚C were explored and samples containing SWNT showed up to two orders of magnitude better conductivity compared to the benchmark condition for some scenarios. In all conditions the samples with SWNT outperformed those without. A method to coat the nanofibre membranes with PEDOT:PSS was developed, which has uses both for thin film and bulk functionalized nanofibre uses where conductivity is important. Thin film samples of composite SWNT/carbon nanofibres were created and characterized with respect to their transparency and sheet resistance. Transparencies over 96% were achieved. Once coated with PEDOT:PSS, the sheet resistance dropped to 414 ohm/sq while maintaining over 93% transparency for some conditions.

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