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Morphological Effects on the Small-Molecule-Based Solution-Processed Organic Solar Cells

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journal contribution
posted on 24.09.2014, 00:00 by Dong-Chan Lee, Lacie V. Brownell, Liang Yan, Wei You
We report a proof-of-concept study on solution-processed organic solar cells (OSCs) based on [6,6]-phenyl-C61-butyric acid methyl ester (PC61BM) and structurally compact donor molecules which have dithiophene–phenazine–dithiophene (TH-P) and dithiophene–quinoxaline–dithiophene (TH-Q) configurations with decyloxy and methyl side groups, respectively. These molecules formed one-dimensional fibers through self-assembly via weak nonbonding interactions such as π–π and van der Waals interactions even during a fast solvent removal process such as spin-casting. Photophysical and thermal properties of the new donor molecules were characterized with UV–vis absorption and fluorescence spectroscopy, differential scanning calorimetry, and thermogravimetric analysis. The electrochemical data determined experimentally were correlated well with theoretical evaluations. The fibers from the two donor molecules showed distinct morphological differences, allowing for in-depth investigations into their influence on the OSC performance. A continuous three-dimensional network of endless one-dimensional nanofibers, with a width of 300–400 nm, were formed from TH-P regardless of the presence of PC61BM, affording spontaneous nanoscale phase separation that facilitates a large donor/acceptor interfacial area. Bulk (BHJ) and planar heterojunctions (PHJ) from TH-P/PC61BM showed a power conversion efficiency (PCE) of 0.38% and 0.30%, respectively, under optimum device conditions. Post thermal annealing led to the increased domain size and a major decrease in Jsc. Meanwhile, shorter, more rigid needles with a large thickness variation were formed from TH-Q. A continuous network of TH-Q was obtained by spin-coating only in the presence of PC61BM, and the PCE of TH-Q/PC61BM BHJ was found to be 0.36%. However, the PHJ showed poor device performance due to TH-Q’s inability to form a continuous film by spin-coating. The present study suggests a basic molecular architecture to drive one-dimensional assembly and demonstrates the significance of fibrillation for small-molecule-based OSCs.