Recent progress on nanostructured conducting polymers and composites: synthesis, application and future aspects

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  • ReceivedNov 22, 2017
  • AcceptedJan 3, 2018
  • PublishedJan 30, 2018


Funded by

This work was partially supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture

USDA and AU-IGP award.


This work was partially supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, USDA and AU-IGP award.

Interest statement

The authors declare no conflict of interests.

Contributions statement

Zhang L was responsible for sections (Introduction, Synthetic approaches to nanostructured conducting polymers, Strategies to fabricate advanced functional nanocomposites, Applications of conducting polymer nanocomposites (Energy Storage and conversion devices, Chemical sensors, Biosensors, Energy harvesting devices)), Du W contributed for sections (Applications of conducting polymer nanocomposites (Corrosion protection, Antistatic agent, Electromagnetic interference shielding)) and organized the references, Liu Z contributed for section (Strategies to fabricate advanced functional nanocomposites). Nautiyal A worked on all sections and tables. All authors involved in writing and refinement of the manuscript under the direction of Zhang X who revised the manuscript.

Author information

Lin Zhang received his BSc and MSc in Electronic Science and Technology at Xi’an Jiaotong University, China. He obtained his PhD degree in Materials Engineering at Auburn University, USA in 2013. From 2013 to 2017, he was postdoctoral research fellow in Materials Engineering at Auburn University and in NanoEngineering at UC San Diego. Dr. Zhang’s scientific interests include polymer-based dielectric composites, piezoelectric and ferroelectric ceramics, flexible/wearable devices, and green approaches to conducting polymer based nanocomposites. He joined the Department of Electronic Science and Technology at Xi’an Jiaotong University.

Xinyu Zhang studied in Chemistry Department at the University of Texas at Dallas (UTD) under the supervision of Professors Alan G. MacDiarmid and Sanjeev K. Manohar. After receiving his PhD degree in 2005, he started his postdoctoral stay at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. He started his career at Auburn University in 2008 in the Department of Polymer and Fiber Engineering. His research interests include the microwave approach to ultrafast production of nanomaterials, mechanism study of polymeric material self-assembly using the nanoseeding approach, chemical/electrochemical sensors, and polymer–metal nanocomposites. Currently, he is an Associate Professor in Chemical Engineering at Auburn University.


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  • Figure 1

    Chemical structures of representative conducting polymers.

  • Figure 2

    An overview of conducting polymers based nanocomposites and applications.

  • Figure 3

    (a) Growth mechanism of PEDOT nanostructures at lower oxidation potentials (<1.4 V): the predominance of electrochemically active sites on sharp electrode edges. Two base electrodes are considered: (left) annular and (right) flat-top electrodes. SEM images present the base electrode morphologies. Reprinted with permission from Ref. [50] (Copyright 2008, American Chemical Society). (b) Schematic depiction of PPy nanowires preparation by electrochemical polymerization with AAO as the template. Reprinted with permission from Ref. [49] (Copyright 2016, Royal Society of Chemistry).

  • Figure 4

    (a) Schematic of the microemulsion fabrication of polypyrrole hollow nanospheres and their carbon derivative. (b) TEM and SEM images of PPy nanoparticles and hollow spheres: (i) soluble polypyrrole nanoparticles; (ii) linear PPy core/shell nanoparticles; (iii) polypyrrole nanocapsules and (iv) carbon nanocapsules. Reprinted with permission from Ref. [54] (Copyright 2004, Royal Society of Chemistry). (c) Schematic of PPy nanotubes fabrication using reverse microemulsion polymerization, (d) TEM image of PPy nanotubes. Reprinted with permission from Ref. [55] (Copyright 2003, Royal Society of Chemistry).

  • Figure 5

    SEM images of (a) granular PPy·Cl (scale bar, 200 nm), (b) PPy·Cl nanoclips (scale bar, 1 µm; inset: digital picture of paper clips), (c) PANI·HCl nanoclips (scale bar, 1 µm), and (d) PEDOT·Cl nanoclips (scale bar, 1 µm). Reprinted with permission from Ref. [60] (Copyright 2010, American Chemical Society).

  • Figure 6

    SEM images of nanofibers synthesized by seeding the reaction: (a) PANI nanofibers by emeraldine·HCl nanofibers, (b) PANI nanofibers by HiPco SWNT, (c) PANI nanofibers by hexapeptide AcPHF6, (d) PANI nanofibers by V2O5 nanofibers. Reprinted with permission from Ref. [68] (Copyright 2004, American Chemical Society). (e) PPy nanofibers by V2O5 nanofibers. Reprinted with permission from Ref. [69] (Copyright 2004, American Chemical Society). (f) PEDOT nanofibers by V2O5 nanofibers (scale bar, 500 nm). Reprinted with permission from Ref. [70] (Copyright 2005, Royal Society of Chemistry).

  • Figure 7

    (a) Schematic of electrospinning. Reprinted with permission from Ref. [11] (Copyright 2016, Royal Society of Chemistry). (b) SEM images of electrospun PANI fibers (scale bar: 2 μm). Reprinted with permission from Ref. [77] (Copyright 2014, WILEY-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim).

  • Figure 8

    (a) Formation mechanism of the Pt NP@PPy NF structure. Reprinted with permission from Ref. [111] (Copyright 2013, Royal Society of Chemistry). SEM images of (b) PPy granules oxidized by PtCl2 without V2O5 seeds, (c) PPy/Au nanofiber composites from the V2O5/pyrrole/AuCl system, (d) PPy/Pt nanofiber composites from the V2O5/pyrrole/PtCl4 system, and (e) TEM image of PPy/Pt nanofiber composites from V2O5/pyrrole/PtCl4 (scale bar, 500 nm). Reprinted with permission from Ref. [108] (Copyright 2011, Royal Society of Chemistry).

  • Figure 9

    (a) Schematic of the design process of PANI/RuO2 core-shell nanofiber arrays on carbon cloth and (b) PANI/RuO2 core-shell nanofiber arrays with 500 ALD cycles of RuO2. Reprinted with permission from Ref. [122] (Copyright 2015, WILEY-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim). (c) Fabrication process of core-branch Fe2O3@PPy heterostructures, and (d) SEM image of honeycomb-like Fe2O3 nanoflakes@PPy nanoleaves. Reprinted with permission from Ref. [123] (Copyright 2016, Elsevier).

  • Figure 10

    Schematic illustration of the fabrication of: (a) MoS2@PANI architectures. Reprinted with permission from Ref. [127] (Copyright 2015 WILEY-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim) and (b) SnS2@PANI nanoplates. Reprinted with permission from Ref. [128] (Copyright 2014, Royal Society of Chemistry).

  • Figure 11

    (a) Schematic illustration of preparation of hollow composite fibers and formation of hollow structures, (b) and (c) cross-sectional SEM images of the hollow composite fibers at low and high magnifications, respectively, (d) and (e) SEM images of the hollow composite fibers by a side view at low and high magnifications, respectively. Reprinted with permission from Ref. [145] (Copyright 2016, WILEY-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim). (f) Schematic illustrations of the formation process of PANI/graphene paper, (g) photograph of a piece of the peeling-off graphene paper fabricated in a Teflon substrate. Reprinted with permission from Ref. [146] (Copyright 2013, Royal Society of Chemistry).

  • Figure 12

    (a) Schematic illustration of the synthesis process for nano porous carbon-PANI core-shell nanocomposite materials starting from a rhombic dodecahedron of ZIF-8. (b) SEM image of a carbon-PANI composite. (c) and (d) Transmission electron microscope (TEM) images of the carbon–PANI composite. (e) Comparative cyclic voltammetry studies of carbon, PANI, and carbon-PANI. (f) Variation of capacitance with scan rate for carbon, PANI and the carbon-PANI nanocomposite. Reprinted with permission from Ref. [220] (Copyright 2016, Royal Society of Chemistry).

  • Figure 13

    (a) Illustration of the encapsulation of carbon/sulfur particles with PEDOT:PSS for improving polysulfides encapsulation: carbon/sulfur particles without PEDOT:PSS coating and the polysulfides leak out of the carbon matrix during charge/discharge process. (b) With a PEDOT:PSS coating where the polysulfides are encapsulated within the composite and therefore lithium ions and electrons can move in and out. Reprinted with permission from Ref. [231] (Copyright 2011, American Chemical Society). (c) Schematic illustration of 3D porous SiNP/conductive polymer hydrogel composite electrodes. Each SiNP is encapsulated within a conductive polymer surface coating and is further connected to the highly porous hydrogel framework. (d) Lithiation/de-lithiation capacity and coulombic efficiency of SiNP-PANI electrode cycled at current density of 6 A g−1 for 5,000 cycles. (e) Galvanostatic charge/discharge profiles plotted for the 1st, 1000th, 2000th, 3000th and 4000th cycles. Reprinted with permission from Ref. [234] (Copyright 2013, Nature Publishing Group).

  • Figure 14

    SEM images of PVDF films with (a) fPANI = 0.050 and (b) fPANI = 0.060. Schematic images of the microstructure of PANI/PVDF films with (c) 0.042 < fPANI ≤ 0.050 and (d) 0.050 < fPANI ≤ 0.060. (e) Dependence of dielectric permittivity and DC breakdown field at room temperature. (f) The energy density of the PANI/PVDF films varies with different volume fraction of PANI. Reprinted with permission from Ref. [259] (Copyright 2010, Royal Society of Chemistry).

  • Figure 15

    (a) Synthetic route to PEDOT/Ag. (b) TEM image of PEDOT/Ag with 30 wt.% concentration of AgNO3. (c) The sensing performances and the sensitivity changes of pristine PEDOT NTs and Ag NPs/PEDOT NTs with 5, 10 and 30 wt.%. Reprinted with permission from Ref. [292] (Copyright 2011, The Royal Society of Chemistry). (d) and (e) Schematic of preparation and SEM of core-shell CeO2/PANI particles. (f) Response curves of CeO2/PANI (CPA4) and PANI to 50 ppm and CeO2 to 200 ppm and 2% ammonia. (g) Sensor stability of CeO2/PANI at room temperature. Reprinted with permission from Ref. [281] (Copyright 2014, American Chemical Society).

  • Figure 16

    Overview of the all-plastic-materials based self-charging power system. (a) Schedule of the integrated self-charging power system from 3-parallel TENG and 4-series supercapacitors (SC). (b) SEM image of hPPy, which is used as triboelectric electrode of TENG and electrode active material of supercapacitors, with its water-contacting angle shown in the up-right corner. (c) Brief mechanism of the TENG. Reprinted with permission from Ref. [345] (Copyright 2015, WILEY-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim).

  • Figure 17

    (a) Schematic illustration of the PANI/Te hybrid film processing, (b) electrical conductivity, Seebeck coefficient, and power factor of PANI/Te films changing with different Te content at room temperature and changing with temperature with Te content 70 wt.%. Reprinted with permission from Ref. [352] (Copyright 2016, Royal Society of Chemistry). (c) Diagram of interactions in PPy/graphene/PANI composite, (d) Power factor of pure PPy, PANI, PPy/graphene composite, PANI/graphene composite, and PPy/graphene/PANI composite with 32 wt.% graphene at different temperatures. Reprinted with permission from Ref. [359] (Copyright 2017, American Chemical Society).

  • Figure 18

    Layer-structured PANI/Ag-NW composite film: (a) the schematic of preparation and (b) the EMI SE in the X-band frequency range. Reprinted with permission from Ref. [415] (Copyright 2016, Royal Society of Chemistry). PANI-aramid nanocomposite with hierarchical layering structure: (c) the schematic of preparation and (d) the EMI SE in the X-band frequency range. Reprinted with permission from Ref. [420] (Copyright 2017, Elsevier).

  • Table 1   Conductivity of common conducting polymers

    Conducting polymers

    Conductivity (S cm−1)

    Type of doping

    Polyaniline (PANI)


    n, p

    Polypyrrole (PPy)



    Poly(3,4-ethylenedioxythiophene) (PEDOT)


    n, p

    Polythiophene (PT)



    Polyacetylene (PA)


    n, p

    Polyparaphenylene (PPP)


    n, p

    Polyparaphenylenesulfide (PPS)



    Polyparavinylene (PPv)



    Polyisothionaphthene (PITN)



  • Table 2   Advantages and disadvantages of synthetic approaches

    Synthetic approaches



    Hard template

    Feasible for almost all CPs. The size and morphologyof CPs can be well controlled.

    Additional process to remove the template is required.

    Soft template

    A simple and inexpensive method. Synthesize NCPsin large quantities.

    Weak control the size and morphology of NCPs.


    Simple and facile synthesis without template.

    Restrict to certain precursors.


    Synthesize NCPs in one-step rapidly with bulkquantities. The seeds play a dual role as both thetemplates and the reactive oxidants.

    Difficulty in fabricating hollow nanotubular structures.


    Simple method to synthesize CP nanofibers.

    Only available for soluble and thermoplastic CPs.


    Synthesize NCPs at room temperature and inambient pressure. The process is easily controlledand adaptable without inducing impurities.

    Weak control on the size and morphology of NCPs.Precise control of dose rate and time of radiolysis is required.

    Electrochemical assembly

    The size and morphology of NCPs can bewell controlled.

    Lacks a precise control in the morphologies anddimensions of NCPs.

    Soft lithography

    Low-cost, high-resolution and high-throughput.

    Expensive facilities are required.

  • Table 3   Synthesis and applications of selected CP/metal nanocomposites

    Conducting polymer


    Preparation method


    Properties andapplication




    In situ oxidative polymerization of anilinewith gold nanoparticles

    Nanocomposite fibers

    Ammonia sensing




    One-pot oxidation using chloroauric acidas the oxidant






    Water/toluene biphasic system using AuCl4as an oxidant

    Rodlike AuNPs embeddedin polymer





    PANI shell grown on gold nanoparticlesvia in-situ polymerization

    Core-shell structurenanoparticles

    Asymmetric supercapacitor device




    Reductive deposition of nano-Fe0 ontothe PANI nanofibers

    Nanofibers with arough surface

    Adsorbent forremoval of arsenic




    Fe was modified by silane and aniline waspolymerized

    Core-shell structurenanoparticles

    Exhibit excellentdielectric properties




    In situ polymerization method to producepolymer and metal

    Multibranchingtree-like form

    High antimicrobial efficacy




    Layer-by-layer electrodeposition

    Sandwich-structurednanotube array





    Drop ascorbic acid in K2PdCl4/DMF withPANI/DMF solution

    Core-shell structurenanoparticles

    Selective catalysts




    Polymerize PPy hydrogel andelectrodeposited AuNPs

    AuNPs in 3D PPy hydrogel

    Sensitive amperometric biosensor




    Electro-polymerizing pyrrole on thenanoporous gold

    PPy coated onbicontinuous AuNPs

    Hybrid nanomaterial for actuation




    Coat the incipient network via wetchemical route

    Coaxial nanowireaero-sponges

    Stress sensing and joule heating




    One-pot UV-inducedphotopolymerization

    Dense structures inthe film plane





    Polyvinylpyrrolidone assist theself-assembly

    Intercalatednon-woven mesh

    Electrocatalyst for biosensing




    One-step microplasma assistedfabrication process

    Core-shell structures

    Fuel cell electrocatalytic application




    Inkjet printing

    Ag grid onPEDOT:PSS layer





    Seeding polymerization reaction anda redox/complexation

    Web-like structure of pot with Au/Cu

    Non-enzymaticglucose sensors


  • Table 4   Synthesis and applications of selected CP based nanocomposites with metal oxides and other inorganic compounds



    Preparation method


    Properties andapplication




    Hydrothermal andelectropolymerization

    Core-shell nanorod array

    Electrochromic material




    Precipitation followed bysonication process

    ZnO embedded inPANI matrix

    Visible light photocatalytic




    In diethylene glycol solution byoxidative polymerization

    Spherical and ellipticalnanoparticles

    Photocatalytical activity




    Atomic layer deposition

    Core-shell nanofiber arrays

    Highly stablepseudocapacitors




    Solvothermal method andpolymerization

    Core-shell hybrids

    Adsorbents for heavymetal ions




    Electrodeposition andelectrochemical oxidation

    Nanoparticles andnanofibers

    Non-enzymatic sensor




    Hydrothermal treatment andin situ polymerization

    Core-shell structure

    Sensitive determination of glucose



    Hydrogen titanate

    A simple oxidativepolymerization method

    1D core-shell structured composites

    Cr(VI) and humic acidremoval




    Incorporating MnFe2O4 duringpolymerization of aniline

    Fiber-like network structure

    Microbial fuel cell




    Polymerization of pyrrole withCuO as wire templates

    Core-shell structures

    Lithium batteries




    Pulsed-light and pulsed-potentialmethods

    Highly orderednanotube arrays





    Density functional theory simulation


    An efficient photocatalyst




    Vapor phase polymerization

    Nanosheets and nanofibers

    Highly sensitive NH3 gas sensors




    Solvothermal reduction

    Needle-like structures

    Non-enzymatic detection of glucose




    CoO grown on 3D nickel foamwith PPy

    Well-aligned CoO nanowire





    In situ photopolymerization

    Uniform granularmorphology

    H2S gas sensor




    Hydrothermal and electrochemicalpolymerization

    3D honeycomb-likenanoflakes/leaves





    Chemical polymerization method

    Mesoporous ZnCO2O4with PPy

    Anode for lithium-ionbatteries




    Low-temperature in situ oxidativepolymerization route


    Rechargeable lithiumbatteries




    Cocoon-to-silk fiber reelingprocess

    Layered V2O5/PEDOTnanobelts

    Planar perovskite solar cells




    Spin-casted and in situpolyreaction

    Composite films with rough surface

    Dye sensitized solar cells




    Hydrothermal methodand spin-coating

    Double-deckedbuffer layer

    Photovoltaic cells




    Hydrothermal method and mixwith PEDOT:PSS


    Lithium ion battery anodes




    Mild electrochemical route

    Flowerlike porous arrays

    Flexible asymmetric supercapacitors


  • Table 5   Synthesis and applications of selected CP based nanocomposites with carbon materials



    Preparation method


    Properties and application





    Porous interconnectednetwork

    Supercapacitor electrodes




    Oxidative polymerizationprocess

    Nanotube networkwith carbon cloth

    Flexible supercapacitors




    Drop-casting solution

    Thin film

    Thermoelectric organic composites




    Chemical oxidativepolymerization

    Coaxial structure





    Chemical reduction andelectropolymerization

    Flexible paper withnanorod





    One-step electrochemicalco-deposition

    PANI nanowires onnanosheets

    Flexible supercapacitors




    In-situ oxidativepolymerization

    Flaky wrinkled and folded sheet-like

    Electrodes andhydrophobicity




    One step hydrothermalmethod

    Interconnected porous 3D network





    Convenient physical mixingand vacuum filtration

    Unique layer withnanosheets

    Thermoelectric performance




    Coating and electrochemicalreduction


    Supercapacitor andbiosensor




    Physical synthesis route

    3D hybridnanoarchitecture

    Solid-state flexiblecapacitor




    Chemical polymerization

    Multilayered nanoarchitecture





    Chemical polymerization

    Nanotubes and rGOnanosheets





    Physical mixture

    Thin film

    Humidity sensor





    Core-shell and 3Dnetwork

    Electrochemical capacitors




    Blend and spin-coating

    Film with nanosheets

    Transparent conductive electrodes




    Reduce GO to rGO

    Hollow hybrid fiber

    Fiber supercapacitor




    Pulsed current electro-polymerization technique

    Carbon nanofoam-fibrous PEDOT







    Dopamine detection


  • Table 6   Synthesis and applications of selected CP based ternary and multi-component nanocomposites



    Metal oxides



    Preparation method

    Properties and applications







    Twisting two fibers coated with PANI@Au@CNT

    Highly stretchablesupercapacitors







    Hydrothermal method and in situ polymerizationprocess

    Improved performance for supercapacitors







    Reducing FeCl3 in thesolution of anilineand CNT

    Catalysts with high oxygen reduction reaction







    One-step electrodeposition technique

    Electrocatalyst for alcohol oxidation reaction







    Chemical polymerization of PANI

    Supercapacitors with outstanding energy density







    Layer-by-layer technique

    High-performanceelectromagnetic absorption







    Microwave irradiationand in situ polymerization

    Active electrode materialfor supercapacitors







    One-pot solvothermalmethod and polymerization

    Excellent microwaveabsorption properties







    One-pot process usingFe(III) as the oxidantfor aniline

    Served as an adsorbentand catalyst support







    In situ polymerization of aniline in CS and Co3O4

    Core/double shell structure







    Reduction, doping and in situ chemical polymerization






    Graphene oxide


    Modified Hummers method and layer-by-layer assembly

    Lithium-sulfur batteries







    Stepwise deposition and coating process

    Flexible supercapacitors







    Oxidative polymerization of pyrrole with silver nitrate

    Effective towards E. colifor water disinfection







    Hydrothermal synthesis and oxidative polymerization

    Electrode with excellentcapacitance retention







    Directly mixing/drying,reduction, and heattreatment

    High capacitance forsupercapacitors







    Chemical preparation and in situ polymerization

    Improved electrochemical response







    Polymerize pyrrole withsilver-ammonia complex

    Anode material forzinc-based secondary cell







    Polymerize pyrrolewith MoO3

    Electrocatalysis of ethanolin acid media







    Hydrothermal method and electrodeposition

    High-energy asymmetric supercapacitors







    Vacuum filtration andelectrochemical deposition

    Supercapacitors with high energy density







    Electrostatic stabilization

    Screen-printing ink for supercapacitor







    Coordinating etching and precipitating method

    Pseudocapacitive materials for supercapacitors


  • Table 7   Selected conducting polymer based nanocomposites as chemiresistive sensors

    Sensing materials


    Sensing gas


    Sensitivity or response

    Detection limit

    Response time

    Recover time



    Thin film


    50 ppm


    1 ppm

    7 s

    160 s







    0.1 ppb

    < 2 min

    < 5 min





    1.5 ppm


    1.5 ppm

    ~500 s






    10 ppm


    5 ppm

    < 3 min




    Core-shell NPs


    50 ppm


    2 ppm

    57.6 s






    5 ppm


    257 ppb

    259 s

    468 s



    Network film


    100 ppm


    100 ppb

    36 s

    18 s





    30 ppm


    4 ppm

    18 s

    46 s



    Core-shell nanotubes


    2 ppm



    6 s

    35 s



    Meshed structure


    20 ppm


    1 ppm

    50 s

    23 s





    100 ppm


    1 ppm

    115 s

    44 s





    80 ppm


    10 ppm

    < 1 min

    500 s



    Core-shell NPs


    20 ppm



    14 s

    148 s





    100 ppm


    10 ppm

    49 s

    < 5 min





    100 ppm


    5 ppm







    50 ppm



    36 s

    16 s





    100 ppm


    1 ppm

    2 s

    7 s



    Porous structure


    50 ppm



    138 s

    63 s



    Thin film





    30 s

    5 s



    Thin film


    100 ppm



    30 s

    25 s


  • Table 8   Selected conducting polymer based nanocomposites as biosensors




    (μmol L−1)

    Linear range

    (mmol L−1)


    potential (V)

    Response time (s)


    (µA mmol−1 L cm−2)







    < 5








    < 3
















































































    < 3



















    PANI/MWCNT/Basillus sp./GA





    < 2



  • Table 9   The room-temperature TE properties of the conducting polymer based hybrid nanocomposite



    (σ) (S cm−1)

    Seebeck coefficient

    (S) (μV K−1)

    Power factors

    (S2σ) (μW m−1 K−2)


    (W m−1 K−1)




    PEDOT:PSS/Te nanorods







    PEDOT:PSS/Te nanorods







    PANI/Te nanorods (70 wt.%)










































    PANI/DWNT (30 wt.%)



































  • Table 10   Study on CPs-based composites for EMI shielding in recent three years

    CPs-based nanocomposites



    (S cm−1)






    (dB cm2 g−1)


    PANI/Ag nanowire

    Two-step casting







    In situ polymerization







    In situ polymerization







    In situ polymerization and ball milling







    In situ polymerization and ball milling







    Solution intercalation






    PANI/Bagasse fiber

    In situ polymerization






    Mixture and spin coating







    Electroless deposition







    In situ polymerization







    In-situ polymerization and mixture







    In situ polymerization






    PEDOT:PSS/graphene foam

    Drop coating







    Mixture and drop-casting