2020 Dec 11




Calvin Brett


Calvin Brett

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Defence of doctoral thesis: Calvin Brett – Neutron and X-ray Surface Scattering Reveals the Morphology of Soft Matter Thin Films


Opponent: Professor Orlando Rojas, University of British Columbia

Supervisors: Professor Daniel Söderberg, KTH , professor Mats Johansson, KTH, and professor Stephan Roth, DESY/KTH


The last decades have been overshadowed by reports about the seemingly endless increase use of fossil-based resources. With the development of new products, our mindset is changing so that we more and more need to consider sustainability in our daily lives. Furthermore, smarter devices are indispensable in our world and daily life, and these are expected to be smaller and smaller in size.

To support the transition from fossil-based to sustainable materials, we need to develop knowledge of new materials. Within this thesis project, the aim has been to understand the thin-film properties of sustainable materials and to develop methodologies to measure these. As sustainable template material wood-based nanocellulose was chosen as a bio-degradable representative with favourable favourable physical properties, such as lightweight, transparency, and flexibility. These properties make nanocellulose a perfect candidate for future advanced applications in thin-film organic solar cells, supercapacitors, or sensors. Nanocellulose comprises only a part of such a device, and hence the relevant functional materials and their combinations have to be studied to reveal the interaction between multiple material components on the final device performance. As the nanoscale, or even Ångstrom scale, governs the macroscopic physical properties, it is crucial to understand the materials in detail. Ergo, neutron and X-ray surface-sensitive scattering methods were applied to study nanoparticle deposition layering kinetics and the effects of environmental changes, which revealed the morphology of the resulting nanoporous nanocellulose thin films. The knowledge was used to infiltrate water-soluble intrinsic conductive polymers into these nanopores, which serves as a model for transparent but conductive templates for organic electronics. By changing the environment of the films through humidity cycling, the impact of the environment during a real-life application could be illustrated. Neutron scattering experiments also showed that the cellulose-conductive polymer composite (or hybridmaterial) changes irreversibly during humidity cycling while the pure nanocellulose films show fully reversible properties.

Furthermore, the thermal decomposition of silver nitrate deposited on nanocellulose was studied to understand the nanofibrils’ impact on the synthesis of nanoparticles. The transparency allowed in situstudies of the synthesis process, the spectroscopic properties as well as the plasmonic effect, which demonstrated routes for minimal material usage concepts for surface synthesis processes. It was also discovered that the process allows for band-gap tuning, which can be directly be applied in organic solar cells to tailor the band-gap to be adapted and hence increasing the efficiency.The morphological properties, as studied using X-rays and neutrons, were correlated to macroscopic properties by measuring wettability, surface topography, spectroscopy, or conductivity to examine the full materials application possibilities. Neutron and X-ray scattering methods are complementary and wisely combined, thus allowed pioneering studies of bio-based sustainable nanocomposites leading to advanced functional material concepts that support the development of devices using less fossil-based materials.