Relating the Morphology of Poly(p-phenylene vinylene)/Methanofullerene Blends to Solar-Cell Performance


  • These investigations were financially supported by the Dutch Ministries of EZ, O&W, and VROM through the EET program (EETK97115). The work of X. Y. and J. L. forms part of the research program of the Dutch Polymer Institute (DPI). We would like to acknowledge Philips for a generous gift of MDMO-PPV, Dr. M. T. Rispens for the synthesis of PCBM, Dr. M. M. Koetse (TNO) for the IPCE measurements, and Dr. S. C. J. Meskers for helpful discussions.


The performance of bulk-heterojunction solar cells based on a phase-separated mixture of donor and acceptor materials is known to be critically dependent on the morphology of the active layer. Here we use a combination of techniques to resolve the morphology of spin cast films of poly(p-phenylene vinylene)/methanofullerene blends in three dimensions on a nanometer scale and relate the results to the performance of the corresponding solar cells. Atomic force microscopy (AFM), transmission electron microscopy (TEM), and depth profiling using dynamic time-of-flight secondary ion mass spectrometry (TOF-SIMS) clearly show that for the two materials used in this study, 1-(3-methoxycarbonyl)propyl-1-phenyl-[6,6]-methanofullerene (PCBM) and poly[2-methoxy-5-(3′,7′-dimethyloctyloxy)-1,4-phenylene vinylene] (MDMO-PPV), phase separation is not observed up to 50 wt.-% PCBM. Nanoscale phase separation throughout the film sets in for concentrations of more than 67 wt.-% PCBM, to give domains of rather pure PCBM in a homogenous matrix of 50:50 wt.-% MDMO-PPV/PCBM. Electrical characterization, under illumination and in the dark, of the corresponding photovoltaic devices revealed a strong increase of power conversion efficiency when the phase-separated network develops, with a sharp increase of the photocurrent and fill factor between 50 and 67 wt.-% PCBM. As the phase separation sets in, enhanced electron transport and a reduction of bimolecular charge recombination provide the conditions for improved performance. The results are interpreted in terms of a model that proposes a hierarchical build up of two cooperative interpenetrating networks at different length scales.