Crystallisation kinetics in thin films of dihexyl-terthiophene: the appearance of polymorphic phases†
The presence of surface-induced crystal structures is well known within organic thin films. However, the physical parameters responsible for their formation are still under debate. In the present work, we present the formation of polymorphic crystal structures of the molecule dihexyl-terthiophene in thin films. The films are prepared by different methods using solution-based methods like spin-coating, dip-coating and drop-casting, but also by physical vapour deposition. The thin films are characterised by various X-ray diffraction methods to investigate the crystallographic properties and by microscopy techniques (atomic force microscopy and optical microscopy) to determine the thin film morphologies. Three different polymorphic crystal structures are identified and their appearance is related to the film preparation parameters. The crystallisation speed is varied by the evaporation rate of the solvent and is identified as a key parameter for the respective polymorphs present in the films. Slow crystallisation speed induces preferential growth in the stable bulk structure, while fast crystallisation leads to the occurrence of a metastable thin-film phase. Furthermore, by combining X-ray reflectivity investigations with photoelectron spectroscopy experiments, the presence of a monolayer thick wetting layer below the crystalline film could be evidenced. This work gives an example of thin film growth where the kinetics during the crystallisation rather than the film thickness is identified as the critical parameter for the presence of a thin-film phase within organic thin films.