Depletion-interaction effects on the tunneling conductivity of nanorod suspensions
We study by simulation and theory how the addition of insulating spherical particles affects the conductivity of fluids of conducting rods, modeled by spherocylinders. The electrical connections are implemented as tunneling processes, leading to a more detailed and realistic description than a discontinuous percolation approach. We find that the spheres enhance the tunneling conductivity for a given concentration of rods and that the enhancement increases with rod concentration into the regime where the conducting network is well established. By reformulating the network of rods using a critical path analysis, we quantify the effect of depletion-induced attraction between the rods due to the spheres. Furthermore, we show that our conductivity data are quantitatively reproduced by an effective-medium approximation, which explicitly relates the system tunneling conductance to the structure of the rod-sphere fluid.