The correlation between structural order, elasticity, and semiconductivity for butylthio-functionalized polyaniline (PANI-SBu) thin films was investigated using atomic force microscopy (AFM)-based techniques with X-ray diffraction (XRD) and scanning electron microscopy (SEM). After different stirring times, the thin films were cast from the solution of PANI-SBu in N-methyl-2-pyrrolidone that was continuously stirred at a constant rate of 150 rpm in an airtight round-bottom flask. According to the XRD and SEM results, the cross-sectional film structure evolved from being generally holey to highly lamellar with an increase in the stirring time. However, some new types of disordered structures began emerging beyond the optimal stirring time, possibly caused by the formation of disordered packing structures as contributed from the overoxidized polyaniline backbones during the additional stirring time. Moreover, according to the investigation results obtained using AFM-based techniques, the out-of-plane elastic moduli and charge mobilities of the PANI-SBu films were consistently smaller for disordered thin films and larger for structurally more ordered ones. The shear force resulting from the mechanical stirring of the PANI-SBu solution may gradually disentangle the polymer chains and thus help transform the individual polyaniline molecule from a coil-like chain conformation to a better extended rodlike chain conformation. Therefore, when cast into a film, the stretched polymer chains facilitate self-organization among the PANI-SBu backbones during the film formation process. Thus, an improved structural order in the film is attained. Our results demonstrate an unambiguous correlation between the structure order, elasticity, and conductivity in PANI-SBu thin films, which may have useful applications in conducting polymer-based flexible electronics.
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