We report the influence of UV-ozone irradiation of the hole-collecting buffer layers on the performance and lifetime of polymer:fullerene solar cells. UV-ozone irradiation was targeted at the surface of the poly(3,4-ethylenedioxythiophene): poly(styrenesulfonate) (PEDOT:PSS) layers by varying the irradiation time up to 600 s. The change of the surface characteristics in the PEDOT:PSS after UV-ozone irradiation was measured by employing optical absorption spectroscopy, photoelectron yield spectroscopy, and contact angle measurements, while Raman and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy techniques were introduced for more microscopic analysis. Results showed that the UV-ozone irradiation changed the chemical structure/composition of the surface of the PEDOT:PSS layers leading to the gradual increase of ionization potential with irradiation time in the presence of up-and-down variations in the contact angle (polarity). This surface property change was attributed to the formation of oxidative components, as evidenced by XPS and Auger electron images, which affected the sheet resistance of the PEDOT:PSS layers. Interestingly, device performance was slightly improved by short irradiation (up to 10 s), whereas it was gradually decreased by further irradiation. The short-duration illumination test showed that the lifetime of solar cells with the UV-ozone irradiated PEDOT:PSS layer was improved due to the protective role of the oxidative components formed upon UV-ozone irradiation against the attack of sulfonic acid groups in the PEDOT:PSS layer to the active layer.
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