American Chemical Society
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Study of the Nanoscale Morphology of Polythiophene Fibrils and a Fullerene Derivative

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journal contribution
posted on 2014-08-13, 00:00 authored by Nopporn Rujisamphan, Roy E. Murray, Fei Deng, Chaoying Ni, S. Ismat Shah
Nanoscale blending of electron-donor and electron-acceptor materials in solution-processed bulk heterojunction organic photovoltaic devices is crucial for achieving high power conversion efficiency. We used a classic blend of poly­(3-hexylthiophene)/phenyl-C61-butyric acid methyl ester (P3HT/PCBM) as a model to observe the nanoscale morphology of the P3HT fibrils and PCBM nanoclusters in the mixture. Energy-filtered transmission electron microscopy (EFTEM) clearly revealed a nanoscopic phase separation. Randomly connected and/or nonconnected P3HT fibrous networks and PCBM domains, revealed by 2-dimensional micrographs, were observed by collecting electron energy loss spectra in the range of 19–30 eV. From EFTEM images, the average length and the diameter of P3HT fibrils were found to be approximately 70 ± 5 and 15 ± 2 nm, respectively. Combining the EFTEM, selected area electron diffraction, and X-ray diffraction results, the number and spacing of the ordered chains in P3HT fibrils were determined. There were 18 ± 3 repeating units of P3HT perpendicular to the fibril, ∼184 layers of π–π stacking along the fibril, and ∼9 layers of interchain stacking within the fibril. These conclusive observations provide insight into the number of molecules found in one instance of ordered-plane stacking. This information is useful for the calculation of charge transport in semicrystalline polymers. Using cross-section samples prepared with a focused ion beam technique, the vertical morphology of each phase was analyzed. By collecting 30 eV energy loss images, the phase separation in the P3HT/PCBM system was distinguishable. A higher P3HT concentration was observed at the top of the cell, near Al contact, which could possibly cause loss of carriers and recombination due to a mismatch in the P3HT and Al energy bands.