A new approach to stable, low resistance inexpensive printed flexible conductive inks is proposed. Silver inks have been extensively studied and commercialized for applications in printed electronics due to the inherent high conductivity and stability of silver, even in particulate-based percolation networks processed at temperatures compatible with low-cost polymer films such as poly(ethylene terephthalate) (PET). Recent interest in flexible and even stretchable circuits, however, has presented new challenges for particle-based inks as mechanical strains can result in the opening of critical particle-to-particle contacts. Here we report a facile, low-cost method for the single-step synthesis of stable, printable nanoscale Ag2O decorated Ag flake inks which can be converted to highly conductive Ag films at 150 °C curing temperature without the use of limited shelf life organometallics or low metal loading nanoparticles to modify the interface between silver flakes. Analysis indicates that decoration of Ag flakes with Ag2O nanoparticles (NPs) during ink synthesis improves the conductivity and flexibility of printed silver films by forming bridging interconnections between Ag flakes after low temperature reduction of the Ag2O NPs. In this work, printed nanodecorated silver conductors with starting oxide to metal weight ratios of 5:95 exhibited lateral resistivities lower than 1.5 × 10-5 Ω·cm, which was 35% less than films derived from undecorated Ag flake inks of the same total Ag loading and binder system. This resistivity difference increased to 45% after cyclic bend testing showing increased resilience to repeated flexing for the nanodecorated inks. Through detailed compositional and morphological characterizations, we demonstrate that such improved conductivity and flexibility are due to a more effective bridging afforded by the in situ synthesized Ag NPs on the surface of Ag flakes. These properties, combined with the simplified syntheses method of the nanoink, make the material a viable, advantageous alternative to the limited number of stretchable conductors currently available.
Keywords: Ag2O nanoparticle decorated Ag flake inks; interface modification; printed conductive films; silver ink.