How the formation of interfacial charge causes hysteresis in perovskite solar cells†
In this study, we discuss the underlying mechanism of the current–voltage hysteresis in a hybrid lead-halide perovskite solar cell. We have developed a method based on Kelvin probe force microscopy that enables mapping charge redistribution in an operating device upon a voltage- or light pulse with sub-millisecond resolution. We observed the formation of a localized interfacial charge at the anode interface, which screened most of the electric field in the cell. The formation of this charge happened within 10 ms after applying a forward voltage to the device. After switching off the forward voltage, however, these interfacial charges were stable for over 500 ms and created a reverse electric field in the cell. This reverse electric field directly explains higher photocurrents during reverse bias scans by electric field-assisted charge carrier extraction. Although we found evidence for the presence of mobile ions in the perovskite layer during the voltage pulse, the corresponding ionic field contributed only less than 10% to the screening. Our observation of a time-dependent ion concentration in the perovskite layer suggests that iodide ions adsorbed and became neutralized at the hole-selective spiro-OMeTAD electrode. We thereby show that instead of the slow migration of mobile ions, the formation and the release of interfacial charges is the dominating factor for current–voltage hysteresis.