American Chemical Society
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Structure–Property Relationships for the Electronic Applications of Bis-Adduct Isomers of Phenyl‑C61 Butyric Acid Methyl Ester

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-12-28, 16:39 authored by Xueyan Hou, Jack F. Coker, Jun Yan, Xingyuan Shi, Mohammed Azzouzi, Flurin D. Eisner, James D. McGettrick, Sachetan M. Tuladhar, Isaac Abrahams, Jarvist M. Frost, Zhe Li, T. John S. Dennis, Jenny Nelson
Higher adducts of a fullerene, such as the bis-adduct of PCBM (bis-PCBM), can be used to achieve shallower molecular orbital energy levels than, for example, PCBM or C60. Substituting the bis-adduct for the parent fullerene is useful to increase the open-circuit voltage of organic solar cells or achieve better energy alignment as electron transport layers in, for example, perovskite solar cells. However, bis-PCBM is usually synthesized as a mixture of structural isomers, which can lead to both energetic and morphological disorder, negatively affecting device performance. Here, we present a comprehensive study on the molecular properties of 19 pure bis-isomers of PCBM using a variety of characterization methods, including ultraviolet photoelectron spectroscopy, thermal gravimetric analysis, differential scanning calorimetry, single crystal structure, and (time-dependent) density functional theory calculation. We find that the lowest unoccupied molecular orbital of such bis-isomers can be tuned to be up to 170 meV shallower than PCBM and up to 100 meV shallower than the mixture of unseparated isomers. The isolated bis-isomers also show an electron mobility in organic field-effect transistors of up to 4.5 × 10–2 cm2/(V s), which is an order of magnitude higher than that of the mixture of bis-isomers. These properties enable the fabrication of the highest performing bis-PCBM organic solar cell to date, with the best device showing a power conversion efficiency of 7.2%. Interestingly, we find that the crystallinity of bis-isomers correlates negatively with electron mobility and organic solar cell device performance, which we relate to their molecular symmetry, with a lower symmetry leading to more amorphous bis-isomers, less energetic disorder, and higher dimensional electron transport. This work demonstrates the potential of side chain engineering for optimizing the performance of fullerene-based organic electronic devices.