A high-mobility organic semiconductor employed as the active material in a field-effect transistor does not guarantee per se that expectations of high performance are fulfilled. This is even truer if a downscaled, short channel is adopted. Only if contacts are able to provide the device with as much charge as it needs, with a negligible voltage drop across them, then high expectations can turn into high performances. It is a fact that this is not always the case in the field of organic electronics.
In this review, we aim to offer a comprehensive overview on the subject of current injection in organic thin film transistors: physical principles concerning energy level (mis)alignment at interfaces, models describing charge injection, technologies for interface tuning, and techniques for characterizing devices. Finally, a survey of the most recent accomplishments in the field is given. Principles are described in general, but the technologies and survey emphasis is on solution processed transistors, because it is our opinion that scalable, roll-to-roll printing processing is one, if not the brightest, possible scenario for the future of organic electronics.
With the exception of electrolyte-gated organic transistors, where impressively low width normalized resistances were reported (in the range of 10 Ω·cm), to date the lowest values reported for devices where the semiconductor is solution-processed and where the most common architectures are adopted, are ∼10 kΩ·cm for transistors with a field effect mobility in the 0.1–1 cm2/Vs range. Although these values represent the best case, they still pose a severe limitation for downscaling the channel lengths below a few micrometers, necessary for increasing the device switching speed. Moreover, techniques to lower contact resistances have been often developed on a case-by-case basis, depending on the materials, architecture and processing techniques. The lack of a standard strategy has hampered the progress of the field for a long time. Only recently, as the understanding of the rather complex physical processes at the metal/semiconductor interfaces has improved, more general approaches, with a validity that extends to several materials, are being proposed and successfully tested in the literature. Only a combined scientific and technological effort, on the one side to fully understand contact phenomena and on the other to completely master the tailoring of interfaces, will enable the development of advanced organic electronics applications and their widespread adoption in low-cost, large-area printed circuits.