Efficient bulk heterojunction photovoltaic cells using small-molecular-weight organic thin films

Peter Peumans, Soichi Uchida, Stephen R Forrest
Nature 2003 September 11, 425 (6954): 158-62
The power conversion efficiency of small-molecular-weight and polymer organic photovoltaic cells has increased steadily over the past decade. This progress is chiefly attributable to the introduction of the donor-acceptor heterojunction that functions as a dissociation site for the strongly bound photogenerated excitons. Further progress was realized in polymer devices through use of blends of the donor and acceptor materials: phase separation during spin-coating leads to a bulk heterojunction that removes the exciton diffusion bottleneck by creating an interpenetrating network of the donor and acceptor materials. The realization of bulk heterojunctions using mixtures of vacuum-deposited small-molecular-weight materials has, on the other hand, posed elusive: phase separation induced by elevating the substrate temperature inevitably leads to a significant roughening of the film surface and to short-circuited devices. Here, we demonstrate that the use of a metal cap to confine the organic materials during annealing prevents the formation of a rough surface morphology while allowing for the formation of an interpenetrating donor-acceptor network. This method results in a power conversion efficiency 50 per cent higher than the best values reported for comparable bilayer devices, suggesting that this strained annealing process could allow for the formation of low-cost and high-efficiency thin film organic solar cells based on vacuum-deposited small-molecular-weight organic materials.

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