Record-setting organic photovoltaic cells with PTB polymers have recently achieved ∼8% power conversion efficiencies (PCE). A subset of these polymers, the PTBF series, has a common conjugated backbone with alternating thieno[3,4-b]thiophene and benzodithiophene moieties but differs by the number and position of pendant fluorine atoms attached to the backbone. These electron-withdrawing pendant fluorine atoms fine tune the energetics of the polymers and result in device PCE variations of 2-8%. Using near-IR, ultrafast optical transient absorption (TA) spectroscopy combined with steady-state electrochemical methods we were able to obtain TA signatures not only for the exciton and charge-separated states but also for an intramolecular ("pseudo") charge-transfer state in isolated PTBF polymers in solution, in the absence of the acceptor phenyl-C 61-butyric acid methyl ester (PCBM) molecules. This led to the discovery of branched pathways for intramolecular, ultrafast exciton splitting to populate (a) the charge-separated states or (b) the intramolecular charge-transfer states on the subpicosecond time scale. Depending on the number and position of the fluorine pendant atoms, the charge-separation/transfer kinetics and their branching ratios vary according to the trend for the electron density distribution in favor of the local charge-separation direction. More importantly, a linear correlation is found between the branching ratio of intramolecular charge transfer and the charge separation of hole-electron pairs in isolated polymers versus the device fill factor and PCE. The origin of this correlation and its implications in materials design and device performance are discussed.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Colloid and Surface Chemistry