Correlating Stiffness, Ductility, and Morphology of Polymer:Fullerene Films for Solar Cell Applications



The development of flexible and physically robust organic solar cells requires detailed knowledge of the mechanical behavior of the heterogeneous material stack. However, in these devices there has been limited research on the mechanical properties of the active organic layer. Here, two critical mechanical properties, stiffness and ductility, of a widely studied organic solar cell active layer, a blend film composed of poly(3-hexylthiophene) (P3HT) and [6,6]-phenyl C61-butyric acid methyl ester (PCBM) are reported. Processing conditions are varied to produce films with differing morphology and correlations are developed between the film morphology, mechanical properties and photovoltaic device performance. The morphology is characterized by fitting the absorption of the P3HT:PCBM films to a weakly interacting H-aggregate model. The elastic modulus is determined using a buckling metrology approach and the crack onset strain is determined by observing the film under tensile strain using optical microscopy. Both the elastic modulus and crack onset strain are found to vary significantly with processing conditions. Processing methods that result in improved device performance are shown to decrease both the compliance and ductility of the film.