Vacuum filtration based formation of liquid crystal films of semiconducting carbon nanotubes and high performance transistor devices

Citation: Benjamin King and Balaji Panchapakesan, Nanotechnology 25 175201, 2014.

Summary: In this paper, we report ultra-thin liquid crystal films of semiconducting carbon nanotubes using a simple vacuum filtration process. Vacuum filtration of nanotubes in aqueous surfactant solution formed nematic domains on the filter membrane surface and exhibited local ordering. A 2D fast Fourier transform was used to calculate the order parameters from scanning electron microscopy images. The order parameter was observed to be sensitive to the filtration time demonstrating different regions of transformation namely nucleation of nematic domains, nanotube accumulation and large domain growth.Transmittance versus sheet resistance measurements of such films resulted in optical to dc conductivity of σ opt/σdc = 9.01 indicative of purely semiconducting nanotube liquid crystal network.Thin films of nanotube liquid crystals with order parameters ranging from S = 0.1–0.5 were patterned into conducting channels of transistor devices which showed high I on/Ioff ratios from 10–19 800 and electron mobility values μ e = 0.3–78.8 cm2 (V-s)−1, hole mobility values μ h = 0.4–287 cm2 (V-s)−1. High I on/I off ratios were observed at low order parameters and film mass. A Schottky barrier transistor model is consistent with the observed transistor characteristics. Electron and hole mobilities were seen to increase with order parameters and carbon nanotube mass fractions. A fundamental tradeoff between decreasing on/off ratio and increasing mobility with increasing nanotube film mass and order parameter is therefore concluded. Increase in order parameters of nanotubes liquid crystals improved the electronic transport properties as witnessed by the increase in σ dc/σ opt values on macroscopic films and high mobilities in microscopic transistors. Liquid crystal networks of semiconducting nanotubes as demonstrated here are simple to fabricate, transparent, scalable and could find wide ranging device applications.