• organic solar cells;
  • surface plasmons;
  • efficiency enhancement;
  • stability enhancement;
  • in situ characterization


Despite the progress on organic photovoltaic (OPV) performance, the photoactive layer degradation during prolonged solar illumination is still a major obstacle. In this work, an approach to mitigate the degradation pathway related to structural/morphological changes of the photoactive layer occurring upon continuous illumination in air is presented. It is shown, for the first time, that the incorporation of Ag nanoparticles in poly(3-hexylthiophene) (P3HT) and [6-6]-phenyl-C61-butyric acid methyl ester bulk heterojunction (BHJ) leads to improved structural and morphological properties of the composite BHJ solar cells and to better photovoltaic (PV) stability after long periods of continuous illumination. This is evidenced by an original approach based on joint in-situ time-resolved X-ray and atomic force microscopy monitoring. Besides the structural stability improvement and reduced photodegradation rate, it is shown that the composite blends exhibit superior PV performance compared to the pristine BHJs. It can be postulated that the incorporation of metallic nanoparticles in the BHJ leads to a dual enhancement, a plasmon absorption mediated effect, causing improved initial cell efficiency, and a structural stability effect giving rise to reduced degradation rate upon prolonged illumination. The results are in favor of the exploitation of polymer–nanoparticle composites as a promising approach to mitigate the aging effects in OPVs.