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Photoinduced Electron Transfer and Changes in Surface Free Energy in Polythiophene-Polyviologen Bilayered Thin Films

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journal contribution
posted on 22.12.2021, 20:44 by Mary K. Danielson, Jie Chen, Anna K. Vaclavek, Nathan D. Colley, Abdul-Haq Alli, Richard A. Loomis, Jonathan C. Barnes
Bipyridiniums, also known as viologens, are well-documented electron acceptors that are generally easy to synthesize on a large scale and reversibly cycle between three oxidation states (V2+, V•+, and V0). Accordingly, they have been explored in a number of applications that capitalize on their dynamic redox chemistry, such as redox-flow batteries and electrochromic devices. Viologens are also particularly useful in photoinduced electron transfer (PET) processes and therefore are of interest in photovoltaic applications that typically rely on electron-rich donors like polythiophene (PTh). However, the PET mechanism and relaxation dynamics between interfacing PTh and viologen-based thin films has not been well studied as a function of thickness of the acceptor layer. Here, a novel, bilayered thin film composite was fabricated by first spin-coating PTh onto glass slides, followed by spin-coating and curing polyviologen (PV)-based micron-sized films of variable thicknesses (0.5–11.3 μm) on top of the PTh layer. The electron-transfer mechanism and relaxation dynamics from the PTh sublayer into the upper PV film were investigated using femtosecond transient absorption (fTA) spectroscopy and electrochemistry to better understand how the charge-transfer/relaxation lifetimes could be extended using thicker PV acceptor films. The fTA experiments were performed under inert N2 conditions as well as in ambient O2. The latter shortened the lifetimes of the electrons in the PV layer, presumably due to O2 triplet-based trap sites. Contact angle measurements using H2O and MeI were also performed on top of the bilayered films to measure changes in surface free energy that would aid the assessment related to efficiency of the combined processes involving light penetration, photoexcitation, electron mobility, and relaxation from within the bilayered thin films. Insights gained from this work will support the development of future devices that employ viologen-based materials as an alternative electron-acceptor that is both easily processable and scalable.