Subsurface imaging of carbon nanotube networks in polymers with DC-biased multifrequency dynamic atomic force microscopy

Hank T. Thompson, Birck Nanotechnology Center, Purdue University
Fabienne Barroso-Bujans, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas (CSIC)
Julio Gomez Herrero, Autonomous University of Madrid
Ronald Reifenberger, Birck Nanotechnology Center, Purdue University
Arvind Raman, Birck Nanotechnology Center, Purdue University

Date of this Version



Nanotechnology, Volume 24, Number 13


The characterization of dispersion and connectivity of carbon nanotube (CNT) networks inside polymers is of great interest in polymer nanocomposites in new material systems, organic photovoltaics, and in electrodes for batteries and supercapacitors. We focus on a technique using amplitude modulation atomic force microscopy (AM-AFM) in the attractive regime of operation, using both single and dual mode excitation, which upon the application of a DC tip bias voltage allows, via the phase channel, the in situ, nanoscale, subsurface imaging of CNT networks dispersed in a polymer matrix at depths of 10-100 nm. We present an in-depth study of the origins of phase contrast in this technique and demonstrate that an electrical energy dissipation mechanism in the Coulomb attractive regime is key to the formation of the phase contrast which maps the spatial variations in the local capacitance and resistance due to the CNT network. We also note that dual frequency excitation can, under some conditions, improve the contrast for such samples. These methods open up the possibility for DC-biased amplitude modulation AFM to be used for mapping the variations in local capacitance and resistance in nanocomposites with conducting networks.


Nanoscience and Nanotechnology