M. Babics, R.-Z. Liang, K. Wang, F. Cruciani, Z. Kan, M. Wohlfahrt, M.-C. Tang, F. Laquai, P.M. Beaujuge
Chemistry of Materials, 30 (3), pp. 789798, (2018)
Nonfullerene, Bulk-heterojunction, Solar cells, Solvent vapor annealing, Morphologies, SVA treatments, BHJ solar, Crystallization, PC71BM
Small-molecule (SM) donors that can be solution-processed with fullerene acceptors (e.g., PC61/71BM), or their “nonfullerene” counterparts, are proving particularly promising for the realization of high-efficiency bulk-heterojunction (BHJ) solar cells. In several recent studies, solvent vapor annealing (SVA) protocols have been found to yield significant BHJ device efficiency improvements via structural changes in the active layer morphologies. However, the mechanisms by which active layer morphologies evolve when subjected to SVA treatments, and the structural factors impacting charge generation, carrier transport, recombination, and extraction in BHJ solar cells with SM donors and fullerene acceptors, remain important aspects to be elucidated. In this report, we show that—in BHJ solar cells with SM donors and fullerene acceptors—selective crystallization promoted by SVA mediates the development of optimized morphologies across the active layers, setting domain sizes and boundaries. Examining BHJ solar cells subjected to various SVA exposure times, with BDT[2F]QdC as the SM donor and PC71BM as the acceptor, we connect those morphological changes to specific carrier effects, showing that crystal growth effectively directs charge generation and recombination. We find that the SM donor-pure domains growing at the expense of a mixed donor–acceptor phase play a determining role, establishing optimum networks with 10–20 nm sized domains during the SVA treatment. Longer SVA times result in highly textured active layers with crystalline domains that can exceed the length scale of exciton diffusion, while inducing detrimental vertical morphologies and deep carrier traps. Last, we emphasize the field-dependence charge generation occurring upon SVA-mediated crystallization and link this carrier effect to the mixed phase depletion across the BHJ active layer.