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Leveraging Sequential Doping of Semiconducting Polymers to Enable Functionally Graded Materials for Organic Thermoelectrics

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journal contribution
posted on 07.04.2020, 19:41 by Tengzhou Ma, Ban Xuan Dong, Garrett L. Grocke, Joseph Strzalka, Shrayesh N. Patel
With the ability to modulate electronic properties through molecular doping coupled with ease in processability, semiconducting polymers are at the forefront in enabling organic thermoelectric devices for thermal energy management. In contrast to uniform thermoelectric material properties, an alternative route focuses on functionally graded materials (FGMs) where one spatially controls and optimizes transport properties across the length of a thermoelectric material. While primarily studied in the context of inorganic materials, the concept of FGMs for organic thermoelectrics has not been explored. Herein, we introduce how molecular doping of semiconducting polymers enables spatial compositional control of thin-film FGMs. Specifically, we use sequential vapor doping of poly­[2,5-bis­(3-tetradecyl­thiophen-2-yl)­thieno­[3,2-b]­thiophene] (PBTTT) with the small molecule acceptor 2,3,5,6-tetrafluoro-7,7,8,8-tetracyano­quinodimethane (F4TCNQ) to fabricate the simplest form of FGMsdouble-segmented thin films. The two thin-film segments are of equal length (7.5 mm) but each set to different doping levels. Our study focuses on understanding the thermoelectric properties (Seebeck coefficient, α, and electronic conductivity, σ) and structural properties (through X-ray scattering, UV–vis–NIR spectroscopy, and Raman spectroscopy) within and across the two segments. We observe the presence of a small diffuse interfacial region of 0.5–1 mm between the two segments where the doping level and transport properties vary continuously. Despite the diffuse interface, the measured α across the two segments is simply the average of α within each segment. Importantly, this experimental result is consistent with reported mathematical models describing the spatial average of α  in graded thermoelectric materials. Our results demonstrate the facile fabrication and characterization of functionally graded organic thermoelectric materials, providing guidelines for further development on more complex FGMs.