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Issue 24, 2013
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Highly-efficient charge separation and polaron delocalization in polymerfullerene bulk-heterojunctions: a comparative multi-frequency EPR and DFT study

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Abstract

The ongoing depletion of fossil fuels has led to an intensive search for additional renewable energy sources. Solar-based technologies could provide sufficient energy to satisfy the global economic demands in the near future. Photovoltaic (PV) cells are the most promising man-made devices for direct solar energy utilization. Understanding the charge separation and charge transport in PV materials at a molecular level is crucial for improving the efficiency of the solar cells. Here, we use light-induced EPR spectroscopy combined with DFT calculations to study the electronic structure of charge separated states in blends of polymers (P3HT, PCDTBT, and PTB7) and fullerene derivatives (C60-PCBM and C70-PCBM). Solar cells made with the same composites as active layers show power conversion efficiencies of 3.3% (P3HT), 6.1% (PCDTBT), and 7.3% (PTB7), respectively. Upon illumination of these composites, two paramagnetic species are formed due to photo-induced electron transfer between the conjugated polymer and the fullerene. They are the positive, P+, and negative, P, polarons on the polymer backbone and fullerene cage, respectively, and correspond to radical cations and radical anions. Using the high spectral resolution of high-frequency EPR (130 GHz), the EPR spectra of these species were resolved and principal components of the g-tensors were assigned. Light-induced pulsed ENDOR spectroscopy allowed the determination of 1H hyperfine coupling constants of photogenerated positive and negative polarons. The experimental results obtained for the different polymerfullerene composites have been compared with DFT calculations, revealing that in all three systems the positive polaron is distributed over distances of 40–60 Å on the polymer chain. This corresponds to about 15 thiophene units for P3HT, approximately three units for PCDTBT, and about three to four units for PTB7. No spin density delocalization between neighboring fullerene molecules was detected by EPR. Strong delocalization of the positive polaron on the polymer donor is an important reason for the efficient charge separation in bulk heterojunction systems as it minimizes the wasteful process of charge recombination. The combination of advanced EPR spectroscopy and DFT is a powerful approach for investigation of light-induced charge dynamics in organic photovoltaic materials.

Graphical abstract: Highly-efficient charge separation and polaron delocalization in polymer–fullerene bulk-heterojunctions: a comparative multi-frequency EPR and DFT study

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Publication details

The article was received on 08 Apr 2013, accepted on 08 Apr 2013 and first published on 14 May 2013


Article type: Paper
DOI: 10.1039/C3CP51477C
Citation: Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys., 2013,15, 9562-9574
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    Highly-efficient charge separation and polaron delocalization in polymerfullerene bulk-heterojunctions: a comparative multi-frequency EPR and DFT study

    J. Niklas, K. L. Mardis, B. P. Banks, G. M. Grooms, A. Sperlich, V. Dyakonov, S. Beaupré, M. Leclerc, T. Xu, L. Yu and O. G. Poluektov, Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys., 2013, 15, 9562
    DOI: 10.1039/C3CP51477C

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