Perylene diimides: a thickness-insensitive cathode interlayer for high performance polymer solar cells†
With the power conversion efficiency of polymer solar cells (PSCs) approaching the milestone value of 10%, their instability associated with a low work function metal cathode, particularly in the presence of oxygen and moisture, becomes a critical issue for real applications. To alleviate the air-sensitive problem, two easy-accessible solution-processed, environmentally friendly organic small-molecule cathode interlayers, with perylene diimides (PDI) as the core and amino (PDIN) or amino N-oxide (PDINO) as the terminal substituent, are explored. Benefitting from the extended planar structure of the PDI units, the two interlayer materials show high conductivities of ∼10−5 S cm−1, which make them capable of functioning efficiently in a wide thickness range of 6 to 25 nm. This is the first time that thickness-insensitive small-molecule-based cathode interlayers are reported. It is also found that the work function tuning effect of the two PDI-based interlayers allows high work function metals (such as Au and Ag) to act as the cathode. With the conventional device structure with PTB7 as a donor and PC70BM as an acceptor, the PDINO-based devices exhibit an efficiency of 8.24% with Al as the top electrode and 8.16% with Ag as the top electrode, much higher than that of the corresponding Ca/Al-based device (6.98%). The high efficiency of 8.35% is also achieved in the device with PTB7-Th as the donor. The success of the two PDI-interlayers indicates that π-delocalized planar structures with high electron affinities could be particularly useful in developing high-performance organic interlayer materials.