Computational analysis of electrical conduction in hybrid nanomaterials with embedded non-penetrating conductive particles
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© 2016 IOP Publishing Ltd. In this work, a comprehensive multi-resolution two-dimensional (2D) resistor network model is proposed to analyze the electrical conductivity of hybrid nanomaterials made of insulating matrix with conductive particles such as CNT reinforced nanocomposites and thick film resistors. Unlike existing approaches, our model takes into account the impenetrability of the particles and their random placement within the matrix. Moreover, our model presents a detailed description of intra-particle conductivity via finite element analysis, which to the authors' best knowledge has not been addressed before. The inter-particle conductivity is assumed to be primarily due to electron tunneling. The model is then used to predict the electrical conductivity of electrospun carbon nanofibers as a function of microstructural parameters such as turbostratic domain alignment and aspect ratio. To simulate the microstructure of single CNF, randomly positioned nucleation sites were seeded and grown as turbostratic particles with anisotropic growth rates. Particle growth was in steps and growth of each particle in each direction was stopped upon contact with other particles. The study points to the significant contribution of both intra-particle and inter-particle conductivity to the overall conductivity of hybrid composites. Influence of particle alignment and anisotropic growth rate ratio on electrical conductivity is also discussed. The results show that partial alignment in contrast to complete alignment can result in maximum electrical conductivity of whole CNF. High degrees of alignment can adversely affect conductivity by lowering the probability of the formation of a conductive path. The results demonstrate approaches to enhance electrical conductivity of hybrid materials through controlling their microstructure which is applicable not only to carbon nanofibers, but also many other types of hybrid composites such as thick film resistors.
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