Maintaining electrical conductivity, optical transparency, and mechanical integrity against bending and stretching are key requirements for flexible transparent electrodes. Transparent conducting oxides (TCOs) are widely used thin film electrodes in optoelectronic devices. However, these materials are brittle and reducing film thickness to improve their mechanical integrity compromises their electrical performance. Here we combine TCO thin films with metal grids embedded in a polymer substrate to create hybrid electrodes with low sheet resistance and high resilience to bending. Amorphous zinc tin oxide (ZTO) and aluminum-doped zinc oxide (AZO) films sputtered onto polyethylene-terephthalate (PET) substrates with and without embedded metal grids are studied. The hybrid electrodes have an optical absorptance below 5% in the visible range and their electrical sheet resistance is less than 1 Ω/sq. The critical strain for tensile failure is analyzed through a combination of electrical measurements and in-situ observations of crack initiation and propagation during tensile loading. The mean critical strain for failure of the AZO/metal grid is 8.5% and that of the ZTO/metal grid is as high as 10%. The AZO and ZTO films alone present critical strain values around 0.6% and 1% respectively, demonstrating that the addition of the metal grid considerably improves the resistance onset strain of the electrodes far beyond these critical strain limits.
- Amorphous transparent conductive oxide
- Mechanical test
- Stretchable electrode