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Title: Vacuum deposition of organic molecules for photovoltaic applications
Author: Kovacik, Peter
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2012
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Organic photovoltaics have attracted considerable research and commercial interest due to their lightness, mechanical flexibility and low production costs. There are two main approaches for the fabrication of organic solar cells – solution and vacuum processing. The former relies on morphology control in polymer-fullerene blends resulting from natural phase separation in these systems. The latter takes advantage of solvent-free processing allowing highly complex multi-junction architectures similar to inorganic solar cells. This work aims to combine the benefits of both by depositing conjugated polymers using vacuum thermal evaporation. By employing this unconventional approach it aims to enhance the efficiency of organic photovoltaics through increased complexity of the thin-film architecture while improving the nanoscale morphology control of the individual active layers. The thesis explores the vacuum thermal deposition of polythiophenes, mainly poly(3-hexylthiophene) (P3HT) and side-group free poly(thiophene) (PTh). A variety of chemical techniques, such as NMR, FT-IR, GPC, DSC and TGA, are used to examine the effect of heating on chemical structure of the polymers. Optimal processing parameters are identified and related to the resulting thin-film morphology and charge transport properties. Efficient photovoltaic devices based on polythiophene donors and fullerene acceptors are fabricated. Materials science techniques AFM, XRD, SEM, TEM and MicroXAM are used to characterize topography and morphology of the thin films, and UV-Vis, EQE, I-V and C-V measurements relate these to the optical and electronic properties. The results of the study show that polymer side groups have a strong influence on molecular packing and charge extraction in vacuum-deposited polymer thin films. Unlike P3HT, evaporated PTh forms highly crystalline films. This leads to enhanced charge transport properties with hole mobility two orders of magnitude higher than that in P3HT. The effect of molecular order is demonstrated on polymer/fullerene planar heterojunction solar cells. PTh-based devices have significantly better current and recombination characteristics, resulting in improved overall power conversion efficiency (PCE) by 70% as compared to P3HT. This confirms that the chemical structure of the molecule is a crucial parameter in deposition of large organic semiconductors. It is also the first-ever example of vacuum-deposited polymer photovoltaic cell. Next, vacuum co-deposited PTh:C60 bulk heterojunctions with different donor-acceptor compositions are fabricated, and the effect of post-production thermal annealing on their photovoltaic performance and morphology is studied. Co-deposition of blended mixtures leads to 60% higher photocurrents than in thickness-optimized PTh/C60 planar heterojunction counterparts. Furthermore, by annealing the devices post-situ the PCE is improved by as much as 80%, achieving performance comparable to previously reported polythiophene and oligothiophene equivalents processed in solution and vacuum, respectively. The enhanced photo-response is a result of favourable morphological development of PTh upon annealing. In contrast to standard vacuum-processed molecular blends, annealing-induced phase separation in PTh:C60 does not lead to the formation of coarse morphology but rather to an incremental improvement of the already established interpenetrated nanoscale network. The morphological response of the evaporated PTh within the blend is further verified to positively differ from that of its small-molecule counterpart sexithiophene. This illustrates the morphological advantage of polymer-fullerene combination over all other vacuum-processable material systems. In conclusion, this processing approach outlines the conceptual path towards the most beneficial combination of solution/polymer- and vacuum-based photovoltaics. It opens up a fabrication method with considerable potential to enhance the efficiency of large-scale organic solar cells production.
Supervisor: Andrew, Watt; Hazel, Assender Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Advanced materials ; Materials Sciences ; Materials processing ; Nanostructures ; Processing of advanced materials ; Semiconductor devices ; Surface nanoscience ; Condensed Matter Physics ; Electronics ; Materials engineering ; Optoelectronics ; solar cells ; photovoltaics ; conjugated polymers ; vacuum