Nickel Oxide Interlayer Films from Nickel Formate-Ethylenediamine Precursor: Influence of Annealing on Thin Film Properties and Photovoltaic Device Performance

K. X. Steirer, R. E. Richards, A. K. Sigdel, A. Garcia, P. F. Ndione, S. Hammond, D. Baker, E. L. Ratcliff, C. Curtis, T. Furtak, D. S. Ginley, D. C. Olson, N. R. Armstrong, J. J. Berry

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45 Scopus Citations


An organometallic ink based on the nickel formate-ethylenediamine (Ni(O2CH)2(en)2) complex forms high performance NiOx thin film hole transport layers (HTL) in organic photovoltaic (OPV) devices. Improved understanding of these HTLs functionality can be gained from temperature-dependent decomposition/oxidation chemistries during film formation and corresponding chemical structure-function relationships for energetics, charge selectivity, and transport in photovoltaic platforms. Investigations of as-cast films annealed in air (at 150 °C-350 °C), with and without subsequent O2-plasma treatment, were performed using thermogravimetric analysis, Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy, ultraviolet and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, and spectroscopic ellipsometry to elucidate the decomposition and oxidation of the complex to NiOx. Regardless of the anneal temperature, after exposure to O2-plasma, these HTLs exhibit work functions greater than the ionization potential of a prototype donor polymer poly(N-9′-heptadecanyl-2,7-carbazole-alt-5,5-(4′,7′-di-2-thienyl-2′,1′,3′-benzothiadiazole) (PCDTBT), thereby meeting a primary requirement of energy level alignment. Thus, bulk-heterojunction (BHJ), OPV solar cells made on this series of NiOx HTLs all exhibit similar open circuit voltages (Voc). In contrast, the short circuit currents increase significantly from 1.7 to 11.2 mA cm-2 upon increasing the anneal temperature from 150 °C to 250 °C. Concomitantly, increased conductivity and electrical homogeneity of NiOx thin films are observed at the nanoscale using conductive tip-AFM. Similar Voc observed for all the O2-plasma treated NiOx interlayers and variations to nanoscale conductivity suggest that the HTLs all form charge selective contacts and that their carrier extraction efficiency is determined by the amount of precursor conversion to NiOx. The separation of these two properties: selectivity and conductivity, sheds further light on charge selective interlayer functionality.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)10949-10958
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Materials Chemistry A
Issue number20
StatePublished - 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Royal Society of Chemistry 2015.

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5K00-63806


  • AFM
  • bulk heterojunctions
  • fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR)
  • nickel oxide
  • organometallic precursor
  • solar cells
  • work function
  • XPS


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