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Issue 41, 2015
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Multi-phase microstructures drive exciton dissociation in neat semicrystalline polymeric semiconductors

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The optoelectronic properties of macromolecular semiconductors depend fundamentally on their solid-state microstructure and phase morphology. Hence, it is of central importance to manipulate—from the outset—the molecular arrangement and packing of this special class of polymers from the nano- to the micrometer scale when they are integrated in thin film devices such as photovoltaic cells, transistors or light-emitting diodes, for example. One effective strategy for this purpose is to vary their molecular weight. The reason for this is that materials of different weight-average molecular weight (Mw) lead to different microstructures. Polymers of low Mw form unconnected, extended-chain crystals because of their non-entangled nature. As a result, a polycrystalline, one-phase morphology is obtained. In contrast, high-Mw materials, in which average chain lengths are longer than the length between entanglements, form two-phase morphologies comprised of crystalline moieties embedded in largely un-ordered (amorphous) regions. Here, we discuss how changes in these structural features affect exciton dissociation processes. We utilise neat regioregular poly(3-hexylthiophene) (P3HT) of varying Mw as a model system and apply time-resolved photoluminescence (PL) spectroscopy to probe the electronic landscape in a range of P3HT thin-film architectures. We find that at 10 K, PL originating from recombination of long-lived charge pairs decays over microsecond timescales. Tellingly, both the amplitude and decay-rate distribution depend strongly on Mw. In films with dominant one-phase, chain-extended microstructures, the delayed PL is suppressed as a result of a diminished yield of photoinduced charges. Its decay is significantly slower than in two-phase microstructures. We therefore conclude that excitons in disordered regions between crystalline and amorphous phases dissociate extrinsically with yield and spatial distribution that depend intimately upon microstructure, in agreement with previous work [Paquin et al., Phys. Rev. Lett., 2011, 106, 197401]. We note, however, that independent of Mw, the delayed-PL lineshape due to charge recombination is representative of that in low-Mw microstructures. We thus hypothesize that charge recombination at these low temperatures—and likely also charge generation—occur in torsionally disordered chains forming more strongly coupled photophysical aggregates than those in the steady-state ensemble, producing a delayed PL lineshape reminiscent of that in paraffinic morphologies at steady state.

Graphical abstract: Multi-phase microstructures drive exciton dissociation in neat semicrystalline polymeric semiconductors

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Publication details

The article was received on 07 Jul 2015, accepted on 12 Aug 2015 and first published on 19 Aug 2015

Article type: Paper
DOI: 10.1039/C5TC02043C
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Citation: J. Mater. Chem. C, 2015,3, 10715-10722
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    Multi-phase microstructures drive exciton dissociation in neat semicrystalline polymeric semiconductors

    F. Paquin, J. Rivnay, A. Salleo, N. Stingelin and C. Silva-Acuña, J. Mater. Chem. C, 2015, 3, 10715
    DOI: 10.1039/C5TC02043C

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