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Organic-Photovoltaics with Efficiency over 17%
When narrow band gap, non fullerene material Y6 or its derivatives are used as electron acceptors, the power conversion efficiency (PCE) of organic photovoltaic (OPV) has exceeded 18%. The PCE improvement of OPV is due to strong photon collection and low energy loss in the near-infrared range. At the same time, the ternary strategy is generally considered to be a convenient and effective means to improve the PCE of OPVs.
Environmental pollution and energy shortage have become the main issues restricting society development due to consumption of fossil fuels and excessive exploitation. In recent decades, increasingly more attention has been paid to environment friendly green energy, especially for solar energy, nuclear energy and wind energy . Organic photovoltaics (OPVs) are developed to achieve the conversion from solar energy to electrical energy. Compared with inorganic photovoltaics, OPVs show unique advantages with blend donor and acceptor materials as solution-processed active layers. Solution-processed materials were synthesized in the form of colloidal semiconductor inks, as shown in Figure 1. Various methods could be used to form a solid film, such as spray coating, spin coating, inkjet printing, doctor blading or roll-to-roll printing . Organic materials have some advantages, such as low-cost, large-area process ability, high absorption coefficients, tunable optical bandgap and energy levels . After years of exploration, the device structure of OPVs has evolved from Schottky type to planar heterojunction type, and then to bulk heterojunction (BHJ) type. Currently, BHJ refers to the active layers formed by blending donor and acceptor materials. The donor and acceptor materials are interlaced with each other to form a bicontinuous interpenetrating network nanostructure . Sufficient donor/acceptor interface is conducive to exciton dissociation, which strongly determines the performance of OPVs. Some efficient strategies were adopted to optimize phase separation of the active layer, such as solvent additives, thermal annealing treatment, solvent vapor annealing treatment and up-side-down post annealing treatments . The active layer optimization method is commonly decided by the molecular structure of donor and acceptor materials. A dozen years ago, fullerene acceptor materials were used as the main acceptor materials of OPVs due to their good electron transport characteristics. Representative chemical structures of fullerene acceptors are shown in Figure 2. The blend of P3HT:PC61BM was first used as the active layer of OPVs, achieving a PCE of 2.8% . However, the absorption of fullerene derivatives in the visible light region is relatively weak, and the tunability of the energy levels is limited. It is difficult to realize the breakthrough on the PCE of OPVs based on fullerene derivatives . In contrast, non-fullerene acceptor (NFAs) materials possess readily adjustable energy levels and excellent characteristics on strong light absorption in the near-infrared region, which exhibit great potential in constructing highly efficient OPVs, especially for semitransparent OPVs . In 2015, Zhan et al. developed ITIC based on a fused aromatic ring, and non-fullerene PSCs with medium bandgap conjugated polymer as the donor and ITIC as the acceptor had PCEs of 9–11% . In 2019, Zou et al. designed a narrow bandgap NFA material Y6, leading to great improvement on PCE of binary OPVs . Hereafter, a series of Y6 derivatives with narrow bandgap have been successfully designed and synthesized . In 2021, a novel non-Y6 acceptor material named M3 was developed by Zheng et al. . A 16.66% PCE is achieved in PM6:M3 based OPVs, which is comparable with Y6-series acceptor-based OPVs. Here, we summarize in Table 1 the typical works on OPVs with PCE over 17%, which exhibits great potential for the commercialization of OPVs as a green energy source.
Figure 1. Different film preparation methods for solutions in the form of colloidal semiconductor inks. Reproduced from .
Figure 2. Representative chemical structures of fullerene derivatives.
|Active Layer||Anode Modification Layer||Cathode Modification Layer||JSC (mA cm−2)||VOC (V)||FF (%)||PCE (%)||Years||Ref.|
2. Efficient Donor and Acceptor Materials
In the past ten years, many novel NFAs have been designed, such as those based on a perylenediimide (PDI), naphthalene diimide (NDI) or benzothiadiazole (BT) core. Representative chemical structures of NFAs are shown in Figure 3. The bandgaps, energy levels, planarity and crystallinity characteristics of NFAs can be easily adjusted by chemical modification. Currently, most of the highly efficient OPVs are fabricated with narrow bandgap NFAs as acceptors and wide bandgap polymer as donors . Zou et al. synthesized a new NFA Y6 exhibiting NIR absorption onset at 931 nm . The 15.7% PCE was achieved when blending Y6 with PM6 as active layers, pushing the field of OPVs to a higher level. After that, the scientists focused on how to modify the Y6 molecule and design correspondingly new polymer donors. In 2019, Yao et al. reported a chlorinated NFA named BTP-4Cl by replacing the fluorine atoms on the terminal electron-withdrawing units of Y6 with chlorine atoms . When blending with polymer donor PM6, BTP-4Cl based OPVs exhibit much higher VOC of 0.867 V compared with that of the Y6 based OPVs (0.834 V). According to electroluminescence quantum efficiency (EQEEL) measurement of blend films, the BTP-4Cl based films exhibit a higher EQEEL (3.47 × 10−4) than that of BTP-4F based films (1.40 × 10−4), resulting in reduced non-radiative loss of ~24 meV. A PCE of 16.5% can be achieved, resulting from concurrently improved JSC of 25.4 mA cm−2 and VOC of 0.867 V. It should be noticed that the conjugation area of BTP-4Cl increases due to the substitution of fluorine by chlorine atoms, which leads to the poor solubility of BTP-4Cl. When the 0.81 cm2 devices were fabricated by doctor blade coating means, the PCE of large area OPVs dramatically dropped to 10.7 ± 0.5%, which should be mainly due to poor morphology of blend film caused by limited solubility of BTP-4Cl. To improve the process ability of BTP-4Cl, Yao et al. further prolonged alkyl chains of 2-ethylhexyl on pyrrole rings to 2-hexyldecyl and 2-bultyloctyl . A relatively high PCE of 17% could be achieved in the PM6:BTP-4Cl-12 based OPVs.
Figure 3. Representative chemical structures of NFAs.
In addition to process ability of materials, the alkyl chains have important influences on intermolecular accumulation and charge transport. Ge et al. modified the alkyl side chains of Y6 and synthesized an NFA BTP-4F-12 , as shown in Figure 3. In comparison with Y6, the longer alkyl side chains of 2-butyloctyl were introduced to BTP-4F-12. Both Y6 and BTP-4F-12 show similar photon harvesting range and energy levels. The chemical property difference between Y6 and BTP-4F-12 is mainly decided by their molecular arrangement in solid films. The molecular ordering of neat NFA films is studied by using grazing incidence wide-angle X-ray scattering (GIWAXS) measurement. The BTP-4F-12 film has a narrower (100) peak than Y6, and a smaller full width at half-maximum (FWHM, Δq). The crystal coherence lengths (CCLs) of the (100) peaks are calculated as 56.5 and 35.3 Å for BTP-4F-12 and BTP-4F-8 films. As the lamellar stacking of the BTP-4F-12 is enhanced, charge transport ability can be improved in the corresponding blend films. All of the active layers were prepared by a spin-coating method with CF as processing solvent; PBDB-TF:BTP-4F-12 based OPVs exhibit a relatively high PCE of 16.4% in comparison with 15.3% of PM6:Y6 based OPVs. More noteworthy is that BTP-4F-12 dissolves better in some low-toxic solvents, such as 1,2,4-TMB, o-xylene and THF. The chemical structures of varied solvents are shown in Figure 4a. The polymer donor PBDB-TF-T1 with greater solubility was selected to replace PM6 as donor. The detailed PCEs of the OPV cells processed by different solvents are shown in Figure 4b. By employing THF as the processing solvent, a PCE of 16.1% can be achieved for the PBDB-TF-T1:BTP-4F-12 based OPVs, which is very close to that of OPVs fabricated with halogenated solvents. Furthermore, 1.07 cm2 devices were fabricated by the spin-coating and blade-coating methods (Figure 4c), using THF as the processing solvent. As shown in Figure 4d, the resulting devices showed similar photovoltaic parameters. Impressively, a high PCE of 14.4% was still maintained in large-area OPVs with 1.07 cm2 active area prepared by the blade-coating method. The results show that modifying the side chain can achieve the purpose of adjusting the processing ability of materials, and further achieve large-scale production in harmless solvents.
Figure 4. (a) Molecular formulas. (b) PCE histograms. (c) Schematics diagram of the spin-coating and blade-coating processes, and picture of the actual device. (d) The J-V curves of devices at a 1.07 cm2 area. Reproduced from .
Figure 5. Representative chemical structures of polymer donors.
Figure 6. (a-d) The 2D-GIWXAS patterns. (e) IP and OOP line-cut profiles. Reproduced from .
In recent years, more PM6 derivatives with excellent performance have been designed and synthesized to achieve higher efficiency OPVs. In 2020, Zhang et al. synthesized a donor polymer (named PM1) by including 20% weakly electron-withdrawing thiophene-thiazolothiazole (TTz) in the PM6 polymer backbone . The PM1:Y6 based OPVs can achieve high PCE of 17.6%, JSC of 25.9 mA cm−2, VOC of 0.87 V and FF of 78%. Excitingly, PM1 polymer has excellent batch-to-batch reproducibility compared to PM6, which is expected to become the main material of the non-fullerene OPV community. In 2021, Li et al. synthesized a D-A copolymer (PBQ6), which is based on biphenyl-benzodithiophene (BDTT) as the donor (D) unit and difluroquinoxaline (DFQ) with two alkyl-substituted fluorothiophene side chains as the acceptor (A), and thiophene as the π-bridges . The mixed film of PBQ6:Y6 showed more balanced hole/electron mobility, less charge carrier recombination and a more favorable morphology compared with the mixed film of PBQ5:Y6. Therefore, the OPVs based on PBQ6:Y6 achieved a high PCE of 17.62% (JSC of 26.58 mA cm−2, VOC of 0.851 V and FF of 77.91%), which is one of the highest PCE of binary OPV with polymer donor and Y6 acceptor. The emergence of multifarious donors provides the possibility of achieving higher efficiency OPVs.
3. Device Architecture
3.1. Multicomponent OPVs with BHJ Structure
3.1.1. Working Mechanism in Multicomponents OPVs
Figure 7. (a) Structures of ternary OPVs with four distribution patterns of the third component. Reproduced from . Working principle diagram of ternary OPV based on double donors: (b) charge transfer, (c) energy transfer, (d) parallel-like mechanism and (e) alloy model. Reproduced from .
Recently, it was demonstrated that the proposed working mechanism can coexist in ternary OPVs. Different working mechanisms may be converted to each other along with varied content of active layer materials. Photoluminescence (PL) spectra, time-resolved transient photoluminescence (TRPL) spectra, J-V curves based on neat donor or acceptor devices and cyclic voltammetry (CV) curves should be popular and convenient tools to investigate and distinguish the corresponding working mechanism in ternary OPVs . It was demonstrated that the distribution of the third component plays a vital role in determining the working mechanism of ternary OPVs. Recently, Zhang et al. proposed a new method to investigate compatibility among the used materials. In a PBDB-T-2Cl:Y6:PC71BM based system, the characteristic Raman peaks of Y6, PBDB-T-2Cl and PC71BM are 2219, 2960, and 259 cm−1, as shown in Figure 8a. Raman map of blend films can be drawn based on the Raman characteristic peak of required material, as shown in Figure 8b . The blue, green and red areas correspond to Y6, PC71BM and PBDB-T-2Cl, respectively. According to the Raman images of the ternary blend film, most of the green dots are surrounded by blue dots, which reflect that PC71BM tends to mix with Y6, between the two materials. Raman technology has been applied in other ternary systems, such as PM6:Y6:MF1  and PM6:IT-2F:T6Me , which can give intuitive evidence on the compatibility of the materials.
Figure 8. (a) Raman spectra of three materials: PBDB-T-2Cl, PC71BM and Y6; (b) Raman mapping image of ternary blend films with different PC71BM contents. Reproduced from .
3.1.2. Typical Works on Ternary OPVs
, in which χ represents the Flory–Huggins interaction parameter. The χ parameter between Y6 and 3TP3T-4F is calculated to be 0.0049, indicating excellent compatibility between Y6 and 3TP3T-4F. “To further examine the effect of incorporating 3TP3T-4F on charge separation in active layers, the reorganization energy (λ) was calculated based on the global analysis of the measured Fourier-transform photocurrent spectroscopy, EL spectra and external quantum efficiency (FTPS-EQE), as shown in Figure 9a–e.” . The values of λ are 0.066 and 0.081 for PM6:Y6:3TP3T-4F and PM6:Y6 based OPVs, respectively. The slightly reduced reorganization energy at the donor/acceptor interface resulting from incorporation of an appropriate amount of 3TP3T-4F is beneficial to interfacial charge dissociation and transfer in the active layer. PCE of 16.7% is realized when mixing 15 wt% 3TP3T-4F in acceptors, resulting from concurrently increased VOC of 0.85 V, JSC of 25.9 mA cm−2 and FF of 74.9%. In 2020, Zhang et al. reported ternary OPVs with compatible PM6 as a donor, and MF1 and Y6 as acceptors . “The PCE of 17.22% (certified 16.8%) is realized when mixing 10 wt% MF1 in acceptors, along with VOC of 0.853 V, JSC of 25.68 mA cm–2 and FF of 78.61%.” .
Figure 9. (a-e) Intensity of FTPS-EQE and their fitting. Reproduced from .
“In this formula, means inevitable radiative recombination loss above the bandgap, which represents the difference between Eg and maximum voltage based on the SQ limit.” . represents radiative recombination loss below the bandgap, and is the voltage when premeditating the actual radiative recombination. means non-radiative loss, which is linearly bound with the natural logarithm of EQEEL, as represented by . Minimizing Eloss with ternary strategy is now an emergent channel for achieving performance improvement of OPVs. In 2019, Hou et al. reported the reduced Eloss of ternary OPVs by mixing fullerene-derived PC61BM as the third component into the PM6:Y6 system . PCE of 16.5% is realized in the optimized ternary OPVs, along with VOC of 0.845 V, JSC of 25.4 mA cm−2, and FF of 77%. The optimized ternary OPVs with a mass ratio of PM6:Y6:PC61BM of 1:1.2:0.2 showed the largest EQEEL of 1.9 × 10−4, as shown in Figure 10c,d. The calculated is 0.25 eV, 0.22 eV and 0.32 eV for the PM6:Y6, optimized ternary and PM6:PC61BM devices, respectively, indicating the reduced non-radiative recombination by employing ternary strategy. In 2020, Zhang et al. reported ternary OPVs with PM6:BTP-4F-12:MeIC as the active layer . A PCE of 17.4% is realized when mixing 15 wt% MeIC in acceptors, resulting from FF of 79.2%, VOC of 0.863 V and JSC of 25.4 mA cm−2. “Photon harvesting, exciton dissociation and charge transport of ternary active layers can be synergistically improved by mixing 10 wt% MeIC in acceptors.” . At the same time, the minimized Eloss of 0.526 eV can be realized in the PM6:BTP-4F-12:MeIC(1:1.08:0.12, wt/wt) based OPVs, leading to enhanced VOC of ternary OPVs. The detailed Eloss of blend OPVs was further studied by EQEEL spectra and highly sensitive EQE (s-EQE) spectra. The addition of MeIC did not bring about any extra absorption or emission of subgap states, causing ΔE2 of ternary OPVs to approach the BTP-4F-12 based ternary OPVs. The ternary OPVs exhibit an EQEEL of 1.58 × 10−4, which is higher than those of two binary OPVs, resulting in reduced non-radiative loss of 0.227 eV. Reduced non-radiative loss might cause performance improvement of PM6:BTP-4F-12:MeIC(1:1.08:0.12, wt/wt) based OPVs.
Figure 10. (a) Diagram of organic solar cell orbital energetics for a typical donor-acceptor pairing. (b) Schematic of two charge-generation pathways in systems with a large offset energy. Reproduced from . (c) Normalized s-EQEs and (d) EQEEL values of the binary and ternary devices. Reproduced from .
In comparison with the polymer/small molecule blend systems, all-polymer based OPVs consisting of tightly entangled polymer acceptor and donor, tend to possess better operational lifetime due to their outstanding morphological and device stabilities under mechanical and thermal stresses. In 2021, Min et al. designed a near-infrared polymer acceptor (PA) PY2F-T, and the all-polymer solar cells (all-PSCs) achieved a 15.0% PCE by blending PM6 as the donor . Subsequently, PYT was incorporated into the PM6: PY2F-T main system as the third component. The PM6:PY2F-T:PYT based all-PSCs achieved VOC of 0.90 V, JSC of 25.2 mA cm−2, FF of 76% and a high PCE of 17.2% (certified PCE of 16.9%). Contrasted with the PM6:PY2F-T system, the ternary OPVs exhibits lower energy loss, better light absorption and light thermal stability. This work promotes the development of high-performance ternary all-PSCs and creates possibilities for their application.
3.1.3. Typical Works on Quaternary OPVs
Figure 11. The simulated optical field distribution in the (a) binary, (b) ternary and (c) quaternary OPVs; calculated photogenerated exciton distribution in the optimized active layers of (d) binary, (e) ternary and (f) quaternary OPVs. Reproduced from .
In the same year, another efficient quaternary OPV was reported by Zhan et al., developed by incorporating a newly synthesized polymer donor material PhI-Se and commonly used fullerene derivative PC71BM into an efficient binary system PM6:Y6 . Solid-state 19F magic angle spinning nuclear magnetic microscopy (19F MAS NMR), GIWAXS, elemental TEM mapping and transient absorption spectroscopy on corresponding films were carried out to investigate molecular structures and charge separation dynamic processes in active layers. In this quaternary system, Se is selectively decorated on PhI-Se, N is seen on PhI-Se and Y6, and F is modified on PM6 and Y6. Overlapping plots of the N and Se, F and Se, and N + F + Se mapping data (Figure 12) indicate that the incorporated PhI-Se prefer to form individual PhI-Se phases, which are interpenetrating with the PM6 and Y6 phases. The individual PhI-Se phase can enhance solar light absorption and function as additional paths for charge separation and hole transport. According to 19F MAS NMR spectroscopy and GIWAXS characterization results, the long-ranged structural order of acceptor phases can be improved by incorporating PhI-Se, which is beneficial to electron transport. A maximum PCE of 17.2% can be achieved in quaternary OPVs with the weight ratios of PhI-Se:PM6:Y6:PC71BM as 0.15:1:1.2:0.20. Recently, a 17.73% PCE of quaternary OPVs was reported by Zhang et al. by using two polymer donors (PM6 and PTQ10) and two acceptors (N3 and PC71BM) as the active layer . The small domains of PTQ10 and PC71BM play the role of separators to spatially separate PM6 and N3, forming a ‘‘rivers-and-streams”-like morphology. The hierarchical morphology can create respective pathways for both holes and electrons to transport across the active layer with suppressed recombination losses. Currently, the occurrence of highly efficient quaternary OPVs suggests that the development of quaternary OPVs can be gradually compared with that of binary and ternary OPVs. With careful material selection and morphology control, quaternary strategy can also play a key role in performance improvement of OPVs.
Figure 12. (a–c) Distribution of N, F and Se; (d,e) enlarged pictures. Reproduced from .
3.2. Tandem Structure OPVs
3.3. Interface Engineering in OPVs
Figure 13. (a) The preparation process of MoS2 and WS2 suspensions. (b) Absorption spectra and the Tyndall effect in WS2 and MoS2 dispersions. (c) Schematic diagram of deposition of MoS2 and WS2 HTLs on substrate. (d) Element mapping obtained using EDX (scale bar: 2 µm). Insets exhibit AFM images of corresponding samples. Reproduced from .
Polyoxometalate-based inorganic clusters (PICs) have the characteristics of easy preparation and purification of organic molecules and high WF of metal oxides. However, due to the limitation of quantum tunneling effect, the PIC film’s hole transport ability is usually poor. In 2021, Hou et al. significantly enhanced the PICs’ conductivity (2.6 × 10−3 S m−1) on the basis of molybdenum and oxygen without influencing their relatively high WF property by mixing HPMO with bivalent tin (17:3) in methanol . The chemical structure of HPMO is presented in Figure 14a. By employing HPMO as the HTL, the PM6:BTP-eC9 based OPVs presented a very low 0.25% PCE. “However, the device based on the HPMO:Sn (17:3) blend exhibited a high 17.3% PCE, along with VOC of 0.84 V, JSC of 26.8 mA cm−2, and FF of 77%, which were comparable to the best results for the PEDOT:PSS device.” . The J-V curves and EQE spectra of corresponding devices are shown in Figure 14b,c. In order to study the HPMO:Sn’s universality, PTB7-Th:PC71BM, PBDB-T:ITIC and PM6:IT-4F were selected as the active layer to manufacture OPVs. Finally, the three OPVs’ PCEs were comparable with their original PCEs reported in the literature, which indicates that HPMO:Sn can be generally used as HTL material. Furthermore, a 1.0 cm2 device (HPMO:Sn as HTL) made by the blade-coated method displayed a 15.1% PCE (Figure 14d), which was the record-breaking value for large-area OPVs. Figure 14d also presents the EQE mapping image, which indicates that about 80% of EQE is achieved. This result shows that HPMO:Sn is a high-performance HTL, which is low-cost, easy to prepare and compatible with a large-area printing process.
Figure 14. (a) Diagram of the reaction. (b) J-V curves and (c) EQE spectra of corresponding OPVs. (d) J-V curves and photovoltaic parameters of 1 cm2 OPVs. Mapping image of EQE at 500 nm. Reproduced from .
In the field of hybrid perovskite solar cells, self-assembled monolayers (SAMs) of organic small molecules have recently been developed to replace commonly used HTL materials, thereby enhancing PCE and improving stability of the cells. Surprisingly, the application of a SAM interlayer in OPVs has only attracted limited attention, so far. In 2021, Anthopoulos et al. reported that Br-2PACz modified ITO was used as a hole-extracting interlayer in OPVs based on PM6:BTP-eC9:PC71BM. The maximum PCE of OPVs reached 18.4%, which was higher than the PCE value based on PEDOT:PSS (17.5%) . It is found that the relatively high PCE is due to the relatively high WF (−5.81 eV) of ITO/Br-2PACz as compared to ITO/PEDOT:PSS (4.9 eV), and the better active layer morphology with Br-2PACz as HTL. The synergistic effects induced by Br-2PACz SAM result in cells with lower interface resistance, increased hole mobility and longer carrier lifetime. The important aspect is that the ITO/Br-2PACz electrode is chemically stable. The SAM removed can be recycled and reused to build OPVs with the same excellent performance. Therefore, Br-2PACz has the characteristics of process ability, low cost, adjustable electronic properties and chemical stability, which means that OPVs can be prepared with high efficiency and high stability.
4. Summary and Perspectives
Over 18% PCE has been realized in single active layer and tandem structure OPVs in recent years, benefiting from the development of novel donor and acceptor materials, modification materials of the interface layer and device engineering. With the significant improvement of OPV equipment performance, the next step will be to make the technology more suitable for scale-up and commercialization. A list of possible future research directions follows: (1) At present, NFAs and wide bandgap donors have great development potential. Optimizing the structure of existing high-performance materials or developing novel materials with high charge mobility and low energy loss will play a vital role in constructing thick-film-based OPVs for meeting future commercial production. In-depth photophysical mechanism research of highly efficient OPV is also required, which can afford more valuable suggestions for material synthesis with higher performance. (2) Ternary OPV can achieve a wide absorption spectrum in a single active layer; tandem OPV can break through the Shockley–Queisser limit of single junction devices and achieve high VOC. The combination of ternary strategy and tandem devices may be a promising method that can visibly increase PCE by more than 20%. (3) A good interface modification layer is also crucial for the commercialization of OPV. The future development direction of interface modification layer materials might be excellent performance, simple preparation process, low cost and good compatibility with a large area printing process. (4) At the same time, exploring halogen-free and environment friendly green solvents and promoting the use of non-toxic solvent printing technology would all be conducive to environmental protection.
The entry is from 10.3390/en14144200
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