Role of Crystallization in the Morphology of Polymer: Non-Fullerene Acceptor Bulk Heterojunctions

David Ostrowski, Kathryn O'Hara, Unsal Koldemir, Christopher Takacs, Sean Shaheen, Alan Sellinger, Michael Chabinyc

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus Citations


Many high efficiency organic photovoltaics use fullerene-based acceptors despite their high production cost, weak optical absorption in the visible range, and limited synthetic variability of electronic and optical properties. To circumvent this deficiency, non-fullerene small-molecule acceptors have been developed that have good synthetic flexibility, allowing for precise tuning of optoelectronic properties, leading to enhanced absorption of the solar spectrum and increased open-circuit voltages (VOC). We examined the detailed morphology of bulk heterojunctions of poly(3-hexylthiophene) and the small-molecule acceptor HPI-BT to reveal structural changes that lead to improvements in the fill factor of solar cells upon thermal annealing. The kinetics of the phase transformation process of HPI-BT during thermal annealing were investigated through in situ grazing incidence wide-angle X-ray scattering studies, atomic force microscopy, and transmission electron microscopy. The HPI-BT acceptor crystallizes during film formation to form micron-sized domains embedded within the film center and a donor rich capping layer at the cathode interface reducing efficient charge extraction. Thermal annealing changes the surface composition and improves charge extraction. This study reveals the need for complementary methods to investigate the morphology of BHJs.
Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)19021-19029
Number of pages9
JournalACS Applied Materials and Interfaces
Issue number22
StatePublished - 2017

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5K00-68704


  • crystallization
  • non-fullerene acceptor
  • organic photovoltaics
  • small molecules
  • transmission electron microscopy
  • x-ray scattering


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