Organic photovoltaics (OPV) show strong potential for a number of renewable energy applications because of some specifically appealing features (light weight, flexibility, color, …). Over the past decade, the power conversion efficiencies of organic solar cells have strongly risen to values surpassing the 10% threshold, mainly due to strong efforts in chemical engineering of the photoactive components, architectural device optimization and acquisition of fundamental insights in the underlying device physics. As part of the device optimization, the use of conjugated polyelectrolyte (CPE) interfacial layers has been introduced as a popular and powerful way to boost the inherent I-V characteristics. In the presented work, we applied impedance spectroscopy to probe the dielectric permittivity of a series of polythiophene-based CPE interlayer materials as a means to postulate design rules toward novel generation interfacial layers. The presence of ionic pendant groups grants the formation of a capacitive double layer, boosting the charge extraction and device efficiency. A counteracting effect is that the material’s affinity with respect to the underlying photoactive layer diminishes. To enhance the interlayer-photoactive layer compatibility, copolymer structures containing a certain amount of non-ionic side chains are found to be beneficial.
When state-of-the-art bulk heterojunction organic solar cells with ideal morphology are exposed to prolonged storage or operation at elevated temperatures, a thermally induced disruption of the active layer blend can occur, in the form of a separation of donor and acceptor domains, leading to diminished photovoltaic performance. Toward the long-term use of organic solar cells in real-life conditions, an important challenge is, therefore, the development of devices with a thermally stable active layer morphology. Several routes are being explored, ranging from the use of high glass transition temperature, cross-linkable and/or side-chain functionalized donor and acceptor materials, to light-induced dimerization of the fullerene acceptor. A better fundamental understanding of the nature and underlying mechanisms of the phase separation and stabilization effects has been obtained through a variety of analytical, thermal analysis, and electro-optical techniques. Accelerated aging systems have been used to study the degradation kinetics of bulk heterojunction solar cells in situ at various temperatures to obtain aging models predicting solar cell lifetime. The following contribution gives an overview of the current insights regarding the intrinsic thermally induced aging effects and the proposed solutions, illustrated by examples of our own research groups.
In this Proceedings paper, we report on the synthesis of a family of polythiophene-based conjugated polyelectrolytes, both homopolymers and random copolymers varying in the building block ratio and counter ions, toward a better fundamental understanding of the structure-property relations of these ionic derivatives in organic photovoltaics. One of the ionic homopolymers was successfully implemented as a donor material in fully solution-processed efficient bi-layer solar cells (up to 1.6% PCE in combination with PC71BM) prepared by the low impact meniscus coating technique. On the other hand, these imidazolium-substituted polythiophenes were also applied as materials for electron transport layers (ETLs), boosting the I-V properties of PCDTBT:PC71BM solar cell devices up to average PCE values of 6.2% (~20% increase), which is notably higher than for previously reported ETL materials. Advanced scanning probe microscopy techniques were used to elucidate the efficiency enhancing mechanism.