Morphology Characterization of Organic Solar Cell Materials and Blends

Morphology Characterization of Organic Solar Cell Materials and Blends

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The organization of polymers and fullerenes, both in their pure states and mixed together, have a large impact on their macroscopic properties. For mixtures used in organic solar cells, the morphology of the mixture has a very large impact upon the mixture's ability to efficiently convert sunlight into useful electrical energy. Understanding how the morphology can change under certain processing conditions and in turn, affect the characteristics of the solar cell is therefore important to improving the function of organic solar cells.Conventional poly(3-hexylthiophene):phenyl-C61-butyric acid methyl ester (P3HT:PCBM) solar cells have served as a staple system to study organic solar cell function for nearly a decade. Much of the understanding of how to make these qpoorlyq conductive organic materials efficiently convert sunlight into electricity has come from the study of P3HT:PCBM. It has long been understood that in order for a polymer:fullerene (electron donor and acceptor, respectively) mixture to function well as a solar cell, two major criteria for the morphology must be met; first, the interface between the two materials must be large to efficiently create charges, and secondly, there must be continous pathways through the qpureq materials for charges to be efficiently collected at the electrodes. This makes it advantageous for OPV materials to phase-separate into interconnected domains with very small domain sizes, a structure that P3HT:PCBM seems to naturally self-assemble. Despite P3HT:PCBM's ability to reach an optimal morphology, a complete understanding of exactly how the morphology affects device performance has not been realized. Completely different morphological models can end up predicting the same device performance characteristics. Much of the problem comes from the assumed morphology within a particular model, which can often be incorrect. The problem lies in the fact that obtaining real, accurate morphological information is difficult. An often neglected morphological feature is the existence of a third mixed phase, which is often unaccounted for because much about its composition and location are poorly understood. Obtaining this information and measuring the full morphology of OPV layers would therefore enable further understanding of device function. It is the aim of this thesis to demonstrate a technique which can measure the morphology of OPV layers accurately, accounting for the third phase and its composition. By using a scanning transmission electron microscope (STEM) in conjunction with electron tomography (ET) and an easily resolved fullerene component, the morphology of P3HT:fullerene layers are herein investigated. The combination of materials and techniques are demonstrated to accurately measure the morphology, illustrated by results which corroborate previous studies in the literature. It will be shown that not only can the position of each of the three phases present be measured, but their compositions can also be determined.Through this technique, morphologies formed under different processing conditions are quantitatively compared. The technique reveals differences between conventional processing methods that are not obvious through other measurements. Differences in the materials distribution throughout the thickness of the layer are also demonstrated and shown to give implications toward device function. Additionally, the precise changes in morphology which occur from different processing conditions are determined and shown to have a significant impact upon the properties of an OPV layer as a solar energy harvester. Not only does the morphology of the mixed materials affect the solar cell properties, but the local structure of the component materials themselves can strongly influence the macroscopic properties. By removing the fullerene component and forming pure domains of P3HT, the effects of internal structure on the properties of P3HT and how the structure is formed is also herein investigated.Through these techniques, the morphology and structure of different organic solar cell mixtures can now be thoroughly investigated. Through this work and future studies, the exact effects of morphology can be more fully understood. With the availability of accurate morphological data, it may now be possible to decouple morphology from other factors which govern device function.Through this work and future studies, the exact effects of morphology can be more fully understood.

Title:Morphology Characterization of Organic Solar Cell Materials and Blends
Author:John Daniel Roehling
Publisher: - 2013


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