Clustering and Percolation in Suspensions of Carbon Black

Jeffrey J. Richards*, Julie B. Hipp, John K. Riley, Norman J. Wagner, Paul D. Butler

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


High-structured carbon fillers are ubiquitous as the conductive additive comprising suspension-based electrochemical energy storage technologies. Carbon black networks provide the necessary electrical conductivity as well as mechanical percolation in the form of a yield stress. Despite their critical role in determining system performance, a full mechanistic understanding of the relationship between the electrical transport characteristics of the percolated, conductive networks of carbon black, and the rheological properties is lacking, which hinders the rational design and optimization of flowable electrodes and the processing of electrolytes for batteries. Here, we report on the microstructural origin of the rheological and electrical properties of two commonly used conductive additives in neat propylene carbonate. From quiescent mechanical and structural studies, we find that the gelation of these carbon black suspensions is best described by the dynamic arrest of a clustered fluid phase. In contrast, the temperature and frequency dependence of the ac conductivity near this transition shows that mesoscale charge transport is determined by hopping between localized states that does not require a stress-bearing network. This unique combination of microstructural characterization with rheological and electrical measurements enables testing prevailing theories of the connection between electrical and mechanical percolation as well as improving conductive additives to enhance electrochemical performance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)12260-12266
Number of pages7
Issue number43
StatePublished - Oct 31 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Materials Science(all)
  • Spectroscopy
  • Surfaces and Interfaces
  • Electrochemistry


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