Prof. Eugen Rabkin
Apr 1 2021 * MATERIALS HORIZONS
Bridging The Thermodynamics And Kinetics Of Temperature-induced Morphology Evolution In Polymer/fullerene Organic Solar Cell Bulk Heterojunction
By:Levitsky, A (Levitsky, Artem) Schneider, SA (Schneider, Sebastian Alexander), Rabkin, E (Rabkin, Eugen) Toney, MF (Toney, Michael F.), Frey, GL (Frey, Gitti L.)
The performance of organic solar cells (OSC) critically depends on the morphology of the active layer. After deposition, the active layer is in a metastable state and prone to changes that lead to cell degradation. Here, a high efficiency fullerene:polymer blend is used as a model system to follow the temperature-induced morphology evolution through a series of thermal annealing treatments. Electron microscopy analysis of the nano-scale phase evolution during the early stages of thermal annealing revealed that spinodal decomposition, i.e. spontaneous phase separation with no nucleation stage, is possibly responsible for the formation of a fine scale bicontinuous structure. In the later evolution stages, large polycrystalline fullerene aggregates are formed. Optical microscopy and scattering revealed that aggregate-growth follows the Johnson-Mehl-Avrami-Kolmogorov equation indicating a heterogeneous transformation process, i.e., through nucleation and growth. These two mechanisms, spinodal decomposition vs. nucleation and growth, are mutually exclusive and their co-existence is surprising. This unexpected observation is resolved by introducing a metastable monotectic phase diagram and showing that the morphology evolution goes through two distinct and consecutive transformation processes where spinodal decomposition of the amorphous donor:acceptor blend is followed by nucleation and growth of crystalline acceptor aggregates. Finally, this unified thermodynamic and kinetic mechanism allows us to correlate the morphology evolution with OSC degradation during thermal annealing.