Developing a durable and scalable transparent conductor (TC) as an electrode with high optical transmission and low sheet resistance is a significant opportunity for enabling next generation solar cell devices. High performance fibrous composite materials based on a carrier polymer with embedded functional nanostructures have the potential to serve as a TC with high surface area that can be deposited by the novel and scalable process of electrospinning. This work presents the development of a fibrous TC, where polyacrylonitrile (PAN) is used as a carrier polymer for multi-walled carbon nanotubes (MWCNT) to create electroactive nanofibers 200-500nm in diameter. Once carbonized, thin layers of this material have a low sheet resistance and high optical transmission. It is shown that in a two stage carbonization process, the second stage temperature of above 700C is the primary factor in establishing a highly conductive material and single layers of nanofibers are typically destabilized at high temperatures. A high performance TC has been developed through optimizing carbonization rates and temperatures to allow for single nanofiber layers fabricated by electrospinning MWCNT/PAN solutions onto quartz. These TCs have been optimized for concentrations of MWCNTs less than 20% volume fraction with well above 90% transmissivity and sheet resistances of between .5-1kohm/square. The required MWCNT loading is well below that for TCs based on random networks of MWCNTs.
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Ritchie, J., Mertens, J., Yang, H. et al. Electrospun Composite Nanofiber Transparent Conductor Layer for Solar Cells. MRS Online Proceedings Library 1323, 348 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1557/opl.2011.829