Oligomeric interface modifiers in hybrid polymer solar cell prototypes investigated by fluorescence voltage spectroscopy†
Carboxylated oligothiophenes were evaluated as interfacial modifiers between the organic poly(3-hexylthiophene) (P3HT) and inorganic TiO2 layers in bilayer hybrid polymer solar cells. Carboxylated oligothiophenes can be isolated using conventional purification techniques resulting in pure, monodisperse molecules with 100% carboxylation. Device prototypes using carboxylated oligothiophenes as interfacial modifiers showed improved performance in the open-circuit voltage and fill factor over devices using unmodified oligothiophenes as interfacial modifiers. X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) studies supported the idea that interface layer adhesion was improved by functionalizing oligothiophenes with a carboxyl moiety. Wide-field fluorescence images revealed that devices made using carboxylated oligothiophenes had fewer aggregates in the P3HT layers atop the modified TiO2 surface. Hysteresis seen in the fluorescence intensity as a function of applied bias, obtained from In-Device Fluorescence Voltage Spectroscopy (ID-FVS), was found to be a diagnostic criterion of the quality of the hybrid interface modification. The best interfaces were found using oligothiophenes functionalized with carboxylates, which created smooth layers on TiO2, and showed no hysteresis, suggesting elimination of interfacial charge traps. However, this hysteresis could be re-introduced by increasing the scan rate of the applied bias, suggesting that smooth P3HT layers created by carboxylated oligothiophene interface modifiers were necessary but not sufficient for sustaining improved photovoltaic properties especially during long-term device operation.