Conjugated polymer and small-molecule donor materials for organic solar cells

  • Chaohua Cui

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This thesis is dedicated to developing conjugated polymer and small-molecule donor materials for solution-processable organic solar cells.To begin with, a brief introduction of organic solar cells (OSCs) and an overview of donor materials development were presented in Chapter 1.In chapter 2, we used carbon-carbon triple bands as linkage of the TVT unit to develop a new building block, ATVTA. Small molecules S-03, S-04, and S-05 with ATVTA as building block showed broad absorption spectra and low-lying HOMO energy levels. S-01 with TVT unit and S-02 with AT2 as building block were also synthesized for clear comparison. OSCs devices based on S-01 and S-02 showed a Voc of 0.88 V and 0.89 V, respectively. The device based on S-03 exhibited a high Voc of0.96 V, leading to a PCE of 2.19%. The devices based on S-04 and S-05 afforded a notable Voc over 1.0 V. The results demonstrate that ATVTA unit is a promising building block for extending π conjugation of the molecules without pulling up their HOMO energy levels.Chapter 3 focused on the development of 2D-conjugated small-molecule donor materials. The 2D-conjugated small molecule S-06 possesses excellent solution processability, broad absorption feature, respectable hole mobility and good film-forming morphology. The conjugated thiophene side chain not only effectively extends the absorption spectrum, but also lowers the HOMO energy level, which is desirable for obtaining high Voc. The BHJ OSCs based on S-06:PC70BM (1:0.5, w/w) afforded a high PCE of 4.0% and a notable FF of 0.63 without any special treatment needed. This preliminary work demonstrates that this kind of 2D-conjugated small molecules offer a good strategy to design new photovoltaic small molecule-based donor materials with high FF and Voc for high-efficiency OSCs. The consistently developed two 2D-conjugated small molecules S-07 and S-08 also possess low-lying HOMO energy levels. OSC device based on S-07:PC60BM (1:3, w/w) afforded a notable Voc of 0.96 V, with a PCE of 2.52%. BHJ devices based on S-08 will be fabricated and tested to investigate its photovoltaic properties in the near future.We developed a series of oligothiophenes with platinum(Ⅱ) as the building blockin Chapter 4. These small metallated conjugated small molecules exhibited broad spectra and relatively low-lying HOMO energy levels in the range of –5.27 eV to–5.40 eV. Introducing platinum(Ⅱ) arylene ethynylenes as building block can beconsidered as an approach to obtain small-molecule donors with satisfactory absorption features and HOMO energy levels. Nevertheless, due to the low FF, the PCEs of these donor materials based devices are lower than 2%. Fine tuning the film morphologies of this kind of metallated small-molecule donor materials should be carried out to improve their photovoltaic performance.We addressed an efficient approach to improve the photovoltaic properties by side chain engineering in 2D-conjugated polymers in Chapter 5. Considering the fact that the Voc of PBDTTT based devices is less than 0.8 V, we introduced alkylthio substituent on the conjugated thiophene side chains of the 2D-conjugated copolymer to further improve the photovoltaic performance of the 2D-conjugated copolymers PBDTTTs. The weak electron-donating ability of the alkylthio side chains effectively down-shifted the HOMO energy level of PBDTT-S-TT by 0.11 eV in comparison to the corresponding polymer with alkyl substitution on the conjugated thiophene side chains. The PSC device based on PBDTT-S-TT showed an enhanced Voc of 0.84 V, which is among the highest one in the reported copolymers based on BDT and TT units, leading to an enhanced PCE of 8.42%. The results indicate that molecular modification by introducing alkylthio side chain will be a promising strategy to broaden the absorption, down-shift the HOMO energy level and increase the hole mobility of the low band gap 2D-conjugated polymers for further enhancing the photovoltaic performance of PSCs. PBDTT-O-TT-C and PBDTT-S-TT-C were developed to further study the conclusion. We found that OSC device based onPBDTT-S-TT-C with alkylthio side chain also demonstrated a high Voc of 0.89 V, with a PCE of 6.85% when processed with 3% DIO additive.
Date of Award13 Aug 2014
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorWai Yeung WONG (Supervisor)

User-Defined Keywords

  • Conjugated polymers
  • Solar cells

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