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Time-Domain Ab Initio Analysis of Excitation Dynamics in a Quantum Dot/Polymer Hybrid: Atomistic Description Rationalizes Experiment

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journal contribution
posted on 08.07.2015, 00:00 by Run Long, Oleg V. Prezhdo
Hybrid organic/inorganic polymer/quantum dot (QD) solar cells are an attractive alternative to the traditional cells. The original, simple models postulate that one-dimensional polymers have continuous energy levels, while zero-dimensional QDs exhibit atom-like electronic structure. A realistic, atomistic viewpoint provides an alternative description. Electronic states in polymers are molecule-like: finite in size and discrete in energy. QDs are composed of many atoms and have high, bulk-like densities of states. We employ ab initio time-domain simulation to model the experimentally observed ultrafast photoinduced dynamics in a QD/polymer hybrid and show that an atomistic description is essential for understanding the time-resolved experimental data. Both electron and hole transfers across the interface exhibit subpicosecond time scales. The interfacial processes are fast due to strong electronic donor–acceptor, as evidenced by the densities of the photoexcited states which are delocalized between the donor and the acceptor. The nonadiabatic charge–phonon coupling is also strong, especially in the polymer, resulting in rapid energy losses. The electron transfer from the polymer is notably faster than the hole transfer from the QD, due to a significantly higher density of acceptor states. The stronger molecule-like electronic and charge-phonon coupling in the polymer rationalizes why the electron–hole recombination inside the polymer is several orders of magnitude faster than in the QD. As a result, experiments exhibit multiple transfer times for the long-lived hole inside the QD, ranging from subpicoseconds to nanoseconds. In contrast, transfer of the short-lived electron inside the polymer does not occur beyond the first picosecond. The energy lost by the hole on its transit into the polymer is accommodated by polymer’s high-frequency vibrations. The energy lost by the electron injected into the QD is accommodated primarily by much lower-frequency collective and QD modes. The electron dynamics is exponential, whereas evolution of the injected hole through the low density manifold of states of the polymer is highly nonexponential. The time scale of the electron–hole recombination at the interface is intermediate between those in pristine polymer and QD and is closer to that in the polymer. The detailed atomistic insights into the photoinduced charge and energy dynamics at the polymer/QD interface provide valuable guidelines for optimization of solar light harvesting and photovoltaic efficiency in modern nanoscale materials.