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In Situ Formation of ZnO in Graphene: A Facile Way To Produce a Smooth and Highly Conductive Electron Transport Layer for Polymer Solar Cells

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journal contribution
posted on 29.07.2015, 00:00 by Aifeng Hu, Qingxia Wang, Lie Chen, Xiaotian Hu, Yong Zhang, Yinfu Wu, Yiwang Chen
A novel electron transport layer (ETL) based on zinc oxide@graphene:ethyl cellulose (ZnO@G:EC) nanocomposite is prepared by in situ formation of zinc oxide (ZnO) nanocrystals in a graphene matrix to improve the performance of polymer solar cells. Liquid ultrasound exfoliation by ethyl cellulose as stabilizer not only allows for uniform dispersion of graphene solution but also maintains an original structure of graphene gaining a high conductivity. The ZnO@G:EC ETL displays a quite smooth morphology and develops the energy-level alignment for the electron extraction and transportation. Subsequently, the device based on poly­(3-hexylthiophene) (P3HT):(6,6)-phenyl-C61 butyric acid methyl ester (PC61BM) with the ZnO@G:EC as ETL obtains a power conversion efficiency (PCE) of 3.9%, exhibiting a ∼20% improvement compared to the familiar device with bare ZnO nanocrystals as ETL. Replacing the active layer with polythieno­[3,4-b]­thiophene/benzodithiophene (PTB7): (6,6)-phenyl-C71 butyric acid methyl ester (PC71BM), the PCE can be dramatically improved to 8.4%. This facile and fascinating method to produce a smooth and highly conductive electron transport layer provides an anticipated approach to obtain high performance polymer solar cells.