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Title: In-situ Neutron Scattering Determination of 3D Phase-Morphology Correlations in Fullerene Block Copolymer Systems

High efficiency solar energy devices can potentially meet all global energy requirements by efficiently harvesting energy from the solar spectrum. However, for solar technologies to be ubiquitous and meet the global power requirements, innovative and revolutionary approaches to trap solar energy are needed. In this regard, organic photovoltaics (OPVs) have drawn much attention, largely due to the ease with which OPVs can be manufactured at much lower costs compared to conventional inorganic PVs. Currently the most efficient OPV devices (at ~10%) are still below a technologically useful efficiency (~15%). It can be argued that to date most of the development of the OPVs has been driven by their electronic properties, without much consideration or understanding of the structure and morphology of the organic components and in particular how these affect the performance of the solar cell devices. It is only in the last few years that the latter has begun to be addressed. Arguably, without a complete understanding of the effect of morphology and structure on device performance, the theoretical maximum efficiency of these devices is unlikely to ever be realized. A thorough understanding of the structure and morphology of the polymers and how this affects device efficiency is vitalmore » to achieve the full potential of OPVs. If OPV devices with 15% efficiency can be achieved, coupled with the predicted low cost of processing, such devices would create an enabling technology, making these types of solar cells significant power generators and thereby reduce the dependency on conventional energy sources. This would fulfill the economic solar energy challenge identified by the NAE in their Grand Challenges of the 21st Century. In this project, we conducted a directed series of experiments to determine morphology-property correlations in bulk heterojunction films by careful control of the OPV structure and morphology. Unlike most research undertaken in the PV arena, this is mostly a fundamental study that does not set out to evaluate new materials or produce devices, but rather we wish to understand from first principles how the molecular structure of polymer-fullerene mixtures determined using neutron scattering (small angle neutron scattering and neutron reflection) affects device characteristics and consequently performance. While this seems a very obvious question to ask, this critical understanding is far from being realized despite the wealth of studies into OPV’s and is severely limiting organic PV devices from achieving their theoretical potential. Despite the fundamental nature of proposed work, it is essential to remain technologically relevant and therefore to ensure we address these issues we have developed relationships on the fundamental nature of structure-processing-property paradigm as applied to future need for large area, flexible OPV devices. Nanoscale heterojunction systems consisting of fullerenes dispersed in conjugated polymers are promising materials candidates for achieving high performance organic photovoltaic (OPV) devices. In order to understand the phase behavior in these devices, neutron reflection is used to determine the behavior of model conjugated polymer-fullerene mixtures. Neutron reflection is particularly useful for these types of thin film studies since the fullerene generally have a high scattering contrast with respect to most polymers. We are studying model bulk heterojunction (BHJ) films based on mixtures of poly(3-hexyl thiophene)s (P3HT), a widely used photoconductive polymer, and different fullerenes (C60, PCBM and bis-PCBM). The characterization technique of neutron reflectivity measurements have been used to determine film morphology in a direction normal to the film surfaces. The novelty of the approach over previous studies is that the BHJ layer is sandwiched between a PEDOT/PSS and Al layers in real device configuration. Using this model system, the effect of typical thermal annealing processes on the film development as a function of the polythiophene-fullerene mixtures is measured.« less
 [1] ;  [2] ;  [3]
  1. University of Akron
  2. Georgia Institute of Technology
  3. Howard University
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
Report Number(s):
DOE Contract Number:
Resource Type:
Technical Report
Research Org:
University of Akron; Georgia Institute of Technology; Howard University; ORNL
Sponsoring Org:
USDOE Office of Science (SC), Basic Energy Sciences (BES) (SC-22)
Contributing Orgs:
Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL)
Country of Publication:
United States
14 SOLAR ENERGY Organic photovoltaic, OPV, bulk heterojunction, BHJ, neutron scattering, small angle neutron scattering, SANS, neutron reflectivity, NR, morphology, device geometry neutron scattering, simulations