Ultrafast transient absorption spectroscopy of doped P3HT films: distinguishing free and trapped polarons
It is generally presumed that the vast majority of carriers created by chemical doping of semiconducting polymer films are coulombically trapped by the counteranion, with only a small fraction that are free and responsible for the increased conductivity essential for organic electronic applications. At higher doping levels, it is also possible for bipolarons to form, which are expected to be less conductive than single polarons. Unfortunately, there is no simple way to distinguish free polarons, trapped polarons and bipolarons using steady-state spectroscopy. Thus, in this work, we use ultrafast transient absorption spectroscopy to study the dynamics of polarons in 2,3,5,6-tetrafluoro-7,7,8,8-tetracyanoquinodimethane (F4TNCQ)-doped films of poly(3-hexylthiophene-2,5-diyl) (P3HT) as a function of dopant concentration and excitation wavelength. When exciting on the red side of the polaron P1 transition, our transient absorption spectra and kinetics match well with what is expected for free 2-D-delocalized polarons; the measurements are not consistent with a recent theory of doped conjugated polymer electronic structure that suggests that the half-filled state lies deeper in the conduction band rather than in the bandgap. As we tune the excitation wavelength to the blue, our measurements reveal an increasing amount of slower transient kinetics that are consistent with the presence of coulombically-trapped polarons rather than bipolarons. Taking advantage of their distinct ultrafast relaxation kinetics as a type of action spectroscopy, we are able to extract the steady-state absorption spectra of free and trapped polarons as a function of dopant concentration. By comparing the results to theoretical models, we determine that in F4TCNQ-doped P3HT films, trapped polarons sit ∼0.4 nm away from the anion while free polarons reside between 0.7 and 0.9 nm from the counteranion. Perhaps counterintuitively, the ratio of trapped to free polarons increases at higher doping levels, an observation that is consistent with a plateau in the concentration-dependent conductivity of F4TCNQ-doped P3HT films.
- This article is part of the themed collection: Ultrafast photoinduced energy and charge transfer