Origin of poor doping efficiency in solution processed organic semiconductors
Doping is an extremely important process where intentional insertion of impurities in semiconductors controls their electronic properties. In organic semiconductors, one of the convenient, but inefficient, ways of doping is the spin casting of a precursor mixture of components in solution, followed by solvent evaporation. Active control over this process holds the key to significant improvements over current poor doping efficiencies. Yet, an optimized control can only come from a detailed understanding of electronic interactions responsible for the low doping efficiencies. Here, we use two-dimensional nonlinear optical spectroscopy to examine these interactions in the course of the doping process by probing the solution mixture of doped organic semiconductors. A dopant accepts an electron from the semiconductor and the two ions form a duplex of interacting charges known as ion-pair complexes. Well-resolved off-diagonal peaks in the two-dimensional spectra clearly demonstrate the electronic connectivity among the ions in solution. This electronic interaction represents a well resolved electrostatically bound state, as opposed to a random distribution of ions. We developed a theoretical model to recover the experimental data, which reveals an unexpectedly strong electronic coupling of ∼250 cm−1 with an intermolecular distance of ∼4.5 Å between ions in solution, which is approximately the expected distance in processed films. The fact that this relationship persists from solution to the processed film gives direct evidence that Coulomb interactions are retained from the precursor solution to the processed films. This memory effect renders the charge carriers equally bound also in the film and, hence, results in poor doping efficiencies. This new insight will help pave the way towards rational tailoring of the electronic interactions to improve doping efficiencies in processed organic semiconductor thin films.