Mechanically Stable Ultrathin Layered Graphene Nanocomposites Alleviate Residual Interfacial Stresses: Implications for Nanoelectromechanical Systems

M Vassaux and WA Muller and JL Suter and A Vijayaraghavan and PV Coveney, ACS APPLIED NANO MATERIALS, 5, 17969-17976 (2022).

DOI: 10.1021/acsanm.2c03955

Advanced nanoelectromechanical systems made from polymer dielectrics deposited onto 2D-nanomaterials such as graphene are increasingly popular as pressure and touch sensors, resonant sensors, and capacitive micromachined ultrasound transducers (CMUTs). However, durability and accuracy of layered nanocomposites depend on the mechanical stability of the interface between polymer and graphene layers. Here we used molecular dynamics computer simulations to investigate the interface between a sheet of graphene and a layer of parylene-C thermoplastic polymer during large numbers of high-frequency (MHz) cycles of bending relevant to the operating regime. We find that important interfacial sliding occurs almost immediately in usage conditions, resulting in more than 2% expansion of the membrane, a detrimental mechanism which requires repeated calibration to maintain CMUTs accuracy. This irreversible mechanism is caused by relaxation of residual internal stresses in the nanocomposite bilayer, leading to the emergence of self- equilibrated tension in the polymer and compression in the graphene. It arises as a result of deposition-polymerization processing conditions. Our findings demonstrate the need for particular care to be exercised in overcoming initial expansion. The selection of appropriate materials chemistry including low electrostatic interactions will also be key to their successful application as durable and reliable devices.

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