Precise Structural Development and its Correlation to Function in Conjugated Polymer: Fullerene Thin Films by Controlled Solvent Annealing



The impact of controlled solvent vapor exposure on the morphology, structural evolution, and function of solvent-processed poly(3-hexylthiophene):[6,6]-phenyl-C61-butyric acid methyl ester (P3HT:PCBM) bilayers is presented. Grazing incident wide angle X-ray scattering (GIWAXS) shows that the crystallization of P3HT increases with solvent exposure, while neutron reflectivity shows that P3HT simultaneously diffuses into PCBM, indicating that an initial bilayer structure evolves into a bulk heterojunction structure. Small angle neutron scattering (SANS) shows the agglomeration of PCBM and the formation of a PCBM pure phase when solvent annealing for 90 min. The structural evolution can be described as occurring in two stages: the first stage combines the enhanced crystallization of P3HT and diffusion of PCBM into P3HT, while the second stage entails the agglomeration of PCBM and formation of a PCBM pure phase. The phase separation of PCBM from P3HT is not driven by P3HT crystallinity, but is due to the concentration of PCBM exceeding the miscibility limit of PCBM in P3HT. Correlation of the morphology to photovoltaic activity shows that device performance significantly improves with solvent annealing for 90 min, indicating that both sufficient P3HT crystallization and formation of a PCBM pure phase are crucial in the optimization of the morphology of the active layer.