Bulk heterojunction solar cells based on blends of the new low band gap donor–acceptor copolymer, poly(N-(dodecyl)-3,6-bis(4-dodecyloxythiophen-2-yl)phthalimide) (PhBT12), and fullerene derivative [6,6]-phenyl-C61-butyric acid methyl ester (PC61BM) or [6,6]-phenyl-C71-butyric acid methyl ester (PC71BM) were systematically investigated. The PhBT12/fullerene blend films were found to exhibit a crystalline nanoscale morphology with space-charge-limited mobility of holes as high as 4.0 × 10−4 cm2/Vs without thermal annealing, leading to moderately efficient devices. The performance of the solar cells varied significantly with PhBT12/fullerene composition, reaching a power conversion efficiency of 2.0% with a current density of 6.43 mA/cm2 and a fill factor of 0.55 for the 1:1 PhBT12/PC71BM blend devices. However, thermally annealed (120 °C) PhBT12/fullerene blend devices had negligible photovoltaic properties due to micrometer scale phase separation of the blends which is attributed to the long side chains. We expect that better photovoltaic performance can be achieved by modifying the polymer side chain length and the device processing as well. These results show that phthalimide-based donor–acceptor copolymer semiconductors, exemplified by PhBT12, are promising low band gap materials for developing efficient bulk heterojunction solar cells.
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