A common phenomenon of organic solar cells (OSCs) incorporating metal-oxide electron extraction layers is the requirement to expose the devices to UV light in order to improve device characteristics – known as the so-called “light-soaking” issue. This behaviour appears to be of general validity for various metal-oxide layers, various organic donor/acceptor systems, and regardless if single junction devices or multi stacked cells are considered. The requirement of UV exposure of OSCs may impose severe problems if substrates with limited UV transmission, UV blocking filters or UV to VIS down-conversion concepts are applied. In this paper, we will demonstrate that this issue can be overcome by the use of Al doped ZnO (AZO) as electron extraction interlayer. In contrast to devices based on TiOx and ZnO, the AZO devices show well-behaved solar cell characteristics with a high fill factor (FF) and power conversion efficiency (PCE) even without the UV spectral components of the AM1.5 solar spectrum. As opposed to previous claims, our results indicate that the origin of s-shaped characteristics of the OSCs is the metal-oxide/organic interface. The electronic structures of the TiOx/fullerene and AZO/fullerene interfaces are studied by photoelectron spectroscopy, revealing an electron extraction barrier for the TiOx/fullerene case and facilitated electron extraction for AZO/fullerene. These results are of general relevance for organic solar cells based on various donor acceptor active systems.
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