Quantifying internal electric fields in organic bulk heterojunctions

Morris, Joshua Daniel
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Renewable forms of energy are becoming increasingly important as the world quickly depletes its current energy reserves, and rapidly increases the concentration of pollutants in our environment. Solar technology based on organic semiconductors provides a promising candidate to fulfill a portion of our future energy needs in an environmentally sustainable manner. Organic semiconductors are a collection of pi-conjugated small molecules and polymers which can be implemented in photovoltaic cells that are potentially quite low cost. Currently, however, their commercial applications are limited due to a relatively low efficiency in converting sunlight into usable power. The fundamental physics of such devices must be clarified if these materials are to compete with traditional inorganic solar cells. In this dissertation, two emerging experimental tools are implemented in investigations of the internal electric fields present within operating organic photovoltaic cells. The first set of investigations utilizes the vibrational Stark effect to quantify the electric fields which often form at the interfaces between two organic semiconducting materials. Such interfaces are at the heart of the photocurrent generation process in these devices and any electric fields formed crucially alter device performance. We quantitatively determine the interfacial field present in blends of poly(3-hexylthiophene) (P3HT) and phenyl-C61-butyric acid methyl ester (PCBM) and show that this field depends strongly on annealing conditions. Finally we discuss a correlation between this interfacial electric field, crystalinity and device performance. The second set of investigations take advantage of electric field induced second harmonic generation microscopy to examine the electric potential across active organic solar cells. We again investigate blends of PCBM and P3HT as well as poly(4,4-dioctyldithieno(3,2-b:2',3'-d)silole)-2,6-diyl-alt-(2,1,3-benzothiadiazole)-4,7-diyl) (PSBTBT) and PCBM. In the former we find that the potential drop across the device shifts dramatically over time under illumination, while in the latter we find a nearly linear drop which remains constant through device operation. We then extend our examinations of PSBTBT:PCBM with EFISH by quantifying the extent of space charge accumulation throughout such devices.