Quantitative relationships between film morphology, charge carrier dynamics, and photovoltaic performance in bulk-heterojunction binary vs. ternary acceptor blends

Weigang Zhu, Guoping Li, Subhrangsu Mukherjee, Natalia E. Powers-Riggs, Leighton O. Jones, Eliot Gann, R. Joseph Kline, Andrew Herzing, Jenna L. Logsdon, Lucas Flagg, Charlotte L. Stern, Ryan M. Young, Kevin L. Kohlstedt*, George C Schatz*, Dean M. DeLongchamp*, Michael R. Wasielewski*, Ferdinand Melkonyan*, Antonio Facchetti*, Tobin Jay Marks*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Addressing pertinent and perplexing questions regarding why nonfullerene acceptors (NFAs) promote higher power conversion efficiencies (PCEs) than traditional fullerenes and how photoactive bulk heterojunction (BHJ) film morphology, charge photogeneration, and recombination dynamics dictate solar cell performance have stimulated many studies of polymer solar cells (PSCs), yet quantitative relationships remain limited. Better understanding in these areas offers the potential to advance materials design and device engineering, afford higher PCEs, and ultimate commercialization. Here we probe quantitative relationships between BHJ film morphology, charge carrier dynamics, and photovoltaic performance in model binary and ternary blend systems having a wide bandgap donor polymer, a fullerene, and a promising NFA. We show that optimal PC71BM incorporation in a PBDB-TF:ITIC-Th binary system matrix retains the original π-face-on orientation, ITIC-Th crystallinity and BHJ film crystallite dimensions, and reduces film upper surface ITIC-Th segregation. Such morphology changes together simultaneously increase hole (μh) and electron (μe) mobilities, facilitate light-activated ITIC-Th to PC71BM domain electron delocalization, reduce free charge carrier (FC) bimolecular recombination (BR) within PBDB-TF:ITIC-Th mixed regions, and increase FC extraction pathways viaPBDB-TF:PC71BM pairs. The interplay of these effects yields significantly enhanced inverted cell short-circuit current density (JSC), fill factor (FF), and PCE. Unexpectedly, we also find that excessive PC71BM in the PBDB-TF:ITIC-Th binary system alters the PBDB-TF orientation to π-edge-on, increases large scale PC71BM-rich aggregations and BHJ upper surface PC71BM composition. These morphology changes increase parasitic decay processes such as intersystem crossing from photoexcited PC71BM, compromising the JSC, FF, and PCE metrics. ITIC-Th X-ray diffraction reveals a unique sidechain-dominated molecular network with previously unknown sidechain-end group stacking, rationalizing the STEM and GIWAXS results, photophysics, and the high μe. DFT computation reveals charge transfer networks within ITIC-Th crystallites, supporting excited-state electron delocalization from ITIC-Th to PC71BM. This structure-property understanding leads to a newly reported NFA blend with PCE near 17%.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1234-1250
Number of pages17
JournalEnergy and Environmental Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 7 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Nuclear Energy and Engineering
  • Pollution


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