Steric hindrance dependence on the spin and morphology properties of highly oriented self-doped organic small molecule thin films†
Introducing charge carriers is of paramount importance for increasing the efficiency of organic semiconducting materials. Various methods of extrinsic doping, where molecules or atoms with large/small reduction potentials are blended with the semiconductor, can lead to dopant aggregation, migration, phase segregation, and morphology alteration. Self-doping overcomes these challenges by structurally linking the dopant directly to the organic semiconductor. However, for their practical incorporation into devices, self-doped organic materials must be cast into thin-films, yet processing methods to allow for the formation of continuous and uniform films have not been developed beyond simple drop-casting. Whilst self-doped organic molecules afford the remarkable ability to position dopants with molecular precision and control of attachment mode, their steric bulk inevitably disrupts the crystallization on surfaces. As such, there is great interest in the development of processing modalities that allow deposited molecules to converge to the thermodynamic minimum of a well-ordered and highly crystalline organic thin film instead of getting trapped in local disordered minima that represent metastable configurations. By contrasting drop casting, ultrasonic deposition, and physical vapor deposition, we investigate the free energy landscape of the crystallization of sterically hindered self-doped perylene diimide thin films. A clear relationship is established between processing conditions, the crystallinity and order within the deposited films, the dopant structures and the resulting spin density. We find physical vapor deposition to be a robust method capable of producing smooth, continuous, highly ordered self-doped organic small molecule thin-films with tailored spin concentrations and well-defined morphologies.