Donor–acceptor conjugated polymers based on multifused ladder-type arenes for organic solar cells
Harvesting solar energy from sunlight to generate electricity is considered as one of the most important technologies to address the future sustainability of humans. Polymer solar cells (PSCs) have attracted tremendous interest and attention over the past two decades due to their potential advantage to be fabricated onto large area and light-weight flexible substrates by solution processing at a lower cost. PSCs based on the concept of bulk heterojunction (BHJ) configuration where an active layer comprises a composite of a p-type (donor) and an n-type (acceptor) material represents the most useful strategy to maximize the internal donor–acceptor interfacial area allowing for efficient charge separation. Fullerene derivatives such as [6,6]-phenyl-C61 or 71-butyric acid methyl ester (PCBM) are the ideal n-type materials ubiquitously used for BHJ solar cells. The major effort to develop photoactive materials is numerously focused on the p-type conjugated polymers which are generally synthesized by polymerization of electron-rich donor and electron-deficient acceptor monomers. Compared to the development of electron-deficient comonomers (acceptor segments), the development of electron-rich donor materials is considerably flourishing. Forced planarization by covalently fastening adjacent aromatic and heteroaromatic subunits leads to the formation of ladder-type conjugated structures which are capable of elongating effective conjugation, reducing the optical bandgap, promoting intermolecular π–π interactions and enhancing intrinsic charge mobility. In this review, we will summarize the recent progress on the development of various well-defined new ladder-type conjugated materials. These materials serve as the superb donor monomers to prepare a range of donor–acceptor semi-ladder copolymers with sufficient solution-processability for solar cell applications.