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Open Access Nano Review

Investigation of the electrical conductivity of propylene glycol-based ZnO nanofluids

Steven Bryan White*, Albert Jau-Min Shih and Kevin Patrick Pipe

Author Affiliations

Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2125, USA

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Nanoscale Research Letters 2011, 6:346  doi:10.1186/1556-276X-6-346

Published: 19 April 2011

Abstract

Electrical conductivity is an important property for technological applications of nanofluids that has not been widely studied. Conventional descriptions such as the Maxwell model do not account for surface charge effects that play an important role in electrical conductivity, particularly at higher nanoparticle volume fractions. Here, we perform electrical characterizations of propylene glycol-based ZnO nanofluids with volume fractions as high as 7%, measuring up to a 100-fold increase in electrical conductivity over the base fluid. We observe a large increase in electrical conductivity with increasing volume fraction and decreasing particle size as well as a leveling off of the increase at high volume fractions. These experimental trends are shown to be consistent with an electrical conductivity model previously developed for colloidal suspensions in salt-free media. In particular, the leveling off of electrical conductivity at high volume fractions, which we attribute to counter-ion condensation, represents a significant departure from the "linear fit" models previously used to describe the electrical conductivity of nanofluids.