, Volume 3, Issue 4, pp 329-346

FEATURE ARTICLE Conducting Polymer Composites

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Abstract

Conducting polymer composites become increasingly important for technical applications. In this article, the resulting electrical properties of such materials are illustrated by a variety of experimental examples. It is shown that the combined mechanical, thermal and electrical interaction between the filler particles via their electrical contacts and the surrounding polymer host matrix are responsible for the properties of the composite material. A short review is given of the theoretical background for the understanding of the electrical transport in such materials. The arrangement of the filler particles and the resulting conductivity can be described either by percolation or by effective medium theories. It can also be related to different types of charge carrier transport processes depending on the internal composite structure. Special emphasis is given to the microstructure of the filler particles such as size, hardness, shape and their electrical and thermal conductivities. A detailed analysis of the physics of the contact spots and the temperature development during current flow at the contact is given. It is shown that the polymer matrix has a strong influence on the electrical conductivity due to its elastic properties and the response to external thermal and mechanical stimulation. Strong changes in the electrical conductivity of conducting polymer composites can be realized either by thermal stimuli, leading to a positive and negative temperature coefficient in resistivity, or by applying mechanical stress. By using nonlinear fillers an additional degree of functionality can be achieved with conducting polymers.