Morphological control in polymer solar cells using low-boiling-point solvent additives
In the global search for clean, renewable energy sources, organic photovoltaics (OPVs) have recently been given much attention. Popular modern-day OPVs are made from solution-processible, carbon-based polymers (e.g. the model poly(3-hexylthiophene) that are intimately blended with fullerene derivatives (e.g. [6,6]-phenyl-C71-butyric acid methyl ester) to form what is known as the dispersed bulk-heterojunction (BHJ). This BHJ architecture has produced some of the most efﬁcient OPVs to date, with reports closing in on 10% power conversion efﬁciency. To push efﬁciencies further into double digits, many groups have identiﬁed the BHJ nanomorphology -- that is, the phase separations and grain sizes within the polymer: fullerene composite -- as a key aspect in need of control and improvement. As a result, many methods, including thermal annealing, slow-drying (solvent) annealing, vapor annealing, and solvent additives, have been developed and studied to promote BHJ self-organization.
Processing organic photovoltaic (OPV) blend solutions with high-boiling-point solvent additives has recently been used for morphological control in BHJ OPV cells. Here we show that even low-boiling-point solvents can be effective additives. When P3HT:PCBM OPV cells were processed with a low-boiling-point solvent tetrahydrafuran as an additive in parent solvent o-dichlorobenzene, charge extraction increased leading to fill factors as high as 69.5%, without low work-function cathodes, electrode buffer layers or thermal treatment. This was attributed to PCBM demixing from P3HT domains and better vertical phase separation, as indicated by photoluminescence lifetimes, hole mobilities, and shunt leakage currents. Dependence on solvent parameters and applicability beyond P3HT system was also investigated.