The Role of Electron Affinity in Determining Whether Fullerenes Catalyze or Inhibit Photooxidation of Polymers for Solar Cells



Understanding the stability and degradation mechanisms of organic solar materials is critically important to achieving long device lifetimes. Here, an investigation of the photodegradation of polymer:fullerene blend films exposed to ambient conditions for a variety of polymer and fullerene derivative combinations is presented. Despite the wide range in polymer stabilities to photodegradation, the rate of irreversible polymer photobleaching in blend films is found to consistently and dramatically increase with decreasing electron affinity of the fullerene derivative. Furthermore, blends containing fullerenes with the smallest electron affinities photobleached at a faster rate than films of the pure polymer. These observations can be explained by a mechanism where both the polymer and fullerene donate photogenerated electrons to diatomic oxygen to form the superoxide radical anion which degrades the polymer.