Effect of Architectural Design and Active Layer Morphology on Power Conversion Efficiencies of Organic Solar Cells; a Critical Study

Effect of Architectural Design and Active Layer Morphology on Power Conversion Efficiencies of Organic Solar Cells; a Critical Study.


Effect of Architectural Design and Active Layer Morphology on Power Conversion Efficiencies of Organic Solar Cells; a Critical Study

The Future of Organic Photovoltaics by Katherine A. Mazzio and Christine K. Luscombe, reviews current scientific progress made in the field of organic photovoltaics (OPV), relating directly to:

  • Common types of OPV device structures;
  • Popular electron donor and acceptor materials;
  • Common active layer morphology optimisation techniques.

Here I will present a summary of particular strengths and limitations displayed in the review by Mazzio et al. (2009) [1].

Can a single layered OPV device demonstrate reasonable efficiency?

Mazzio et al. (2015) presents an informative, chronological summary of device structural characteristics, limitations and strengths [1]. However, a slight discontinuity was reported in the authors’ description of single layered devices, when compared to current research. Mazzio, et al. (2015) suggests that PCEs in the order of only ca. 0.1% have been achieved, to date, for single layered devices, owing to, limitations in device arrangement [1]. The device arrangement for a single layered OPV is displayed in Figure 1 below [2]. Zhang, Q. et al. (2015) recently reported a power conversion efficiency, PCE of ca. 8% for polymer fullerene solar cells [3]. Greater power conversion efficiencies were also reported by Liao, S, H. et al. (2014); a polymer fullerene single cell containing a cathode doped with ZnO, achieved a PCE of ca.10.31% [4].  From the cited material it can be presumed that single layered devices can produce power conversion efficiencies of greater magnitude than those cited by Mazzio. et al. (2015). Recent developments in single junction OPVs clearly discredit the inaccurate information presented by Mazzio. et al. (2015) in this review.

Figure 1: illustrates the architecture of a single layered organic solar cell; containing an active layer sandwiched between two electrodes [2]
Figure 1: illustrates the architecture of a single layered organic solar cell; containing an active layer sandwiched between two electrodes [2]
Limitations of the Bulk Heterojunction

Careful selection of device architecture could improve OPV performance [1, 5]. Mazzio. et al. (2015) reported limitations in the stability of Bulk Heterojunction (BHJ) OPVs. The authors notably suggested an alternative device architecture that may overcome these limitations; an Inverted Bulk Heterojunction, as illustrated in Figure 2 [1, 5, 6]. Mazzio. et al. (2015) reported that the acidic nature of PEDOT: PSS could contribute to BHJ device degradation [1]. Mazzio. et al. (2015) suggested that inverted architectures typically replaced PEDOT: PSS with a low work function metal such as zinc oxide, ZnO [1]. However, Hau, S, K. et al. (2008) reported an excellent air-stable inverted BHJ device containing PEDOT:PSS alongside a silver, Ag electrode [6]. Hau, S, K. et al. (2008) suggested that the superb stability displayed in tests is owed to, PEDOT: PSS and Ag limiting device oxidation [6].  In spite of, the suggestion made by Mazzio, et al. (2015); PEDOT: PSS must be removed in order to improve stability, Hau, S, K. et al. demonstrates that the PEDOT: PSS layer can improve device stabilities.  This improvement in stability in inverted BHJ OPVs make this device an attractive alternative when compared to regular BHJ device architectures. Mazzio. et al. (2015) highlighted the importance of careful selection of device architectures, in order to minimise limitations.

Figure 2 displays (a) a typical bulk hetero-junction device structure and (b) an inverted device architecture [1].
Figure 2 displays (a) a typical bulk hetero-junction device structure and (b) an inverted device architecture [1].
Are small molecules contenders to polymers?

Limitations of polymer active layers were expressed by Mazzio. et al. (2015) concerning: variations in batch to batch properties, end group variations and dispersity [1]. Small molecules (displayed in Figure 3) are presented as potential future alternatives and contenders to polymers, not only overcoming the mentioned limitations but also exhibiting greater hole and electron mobilities [1, 7].

Figure 3: displays small molecule dyes with potential applications for organic solar cell [XXX].
Figure 3: displays small molecule dyes with potential applications for organic solar cell [8].
Small molecules have come a long way, since, Mazzio. et al. (2015) reported their highest PCE’s as ca. 6% with Zhang, Q. et al. (2015) reporting a remarkable efficiency of ca. 9% for a single layered OPVs [3]  and tandem devices recording efficiencies of >12 [3]. Comparatively, polymer based tandem OPVs demonstrate efficiencies of ca. 10% also, PCEs of ca. 9% for a single layered device [9]. From these studies, one can note the improvement in the PCE generated from tandem device architectures, for both small molecule and polymer active layers [3, 9] . From the perspective of power conversion efficiencies alone Mazzio. et al. (2015) is correct to describe small molecules as competitors to polymers, as they have achieved PCEs in a similar range. The reader that is interested in tandem device architectures should read the article by You, J. et al.(2012), where PCES of >10% are recorded for OPVs[10] or Sista, S. et al. (2011) [11].

Morphology Optimisation Procedures

In order to optimise small molecule and polymer active layers, Mazzio. et al. (2015) provided an extensive description of optimisation procedures that alter active layer morphologies and improve device efficiencies [1]. The authors explore the effect of; solvent annealing, thermal annealing and the addition of solvent additives on the active layer morphology of materials, using peer-reviewed sources [1]. The authors discuss, thermal annealing; the process by which a film can be heated above its glass transition temperature, allowing the material to re-orientate itself [1]. They go on to discuss the effect of different types of annealing; post-annealing and pre-annealing [1]. In post-annealing, the sample is thermally annealed after cathode deposition onto the device, whereas, pre-annealing describes thermal annealing prior to cathode deposition [1]. Mazzio. et al. (2015) suggests that these techniques can be used to improve device efficiencies [1]. This is supported by a study carried out by Yi, Z. (2014) on the pre-annealing of small molecule, that increased the dark current, reduced the open circuit voltage, hence, improved the PCE [8]. An experimental study conducted by Yang, X. et al. (2012) supported this further; post annealing was found to enhance light absorption (as shown in Figure 4) and increase hole mobilities, furthermore, improving PCEs [12]. In addition to demonstrating that device architectures can influence power conversion efficiencies the writers also portray that annealing a sample can also optimise OPV properties.

Figure 4: displays optical absorbance for the P3HT/PCBM blend across a range of temperatures; analysed in Yang, X. Uddin, A. et al. (2012) [xxx]
Figure 4: displays optical absorbance for the P3HT/PCBM blend across a range of temperatures; analysed in Yang, X. Uddin, A. et al. (2012) [12]
Importantly, the authors provide an alternative to thermal annealing, for materials such as PCPDTBT that does not respond well to thermal annealing; the addition of alkane dithiols [1].  Mazzio. et al. (2015) report an improvement in the nanomorphology of PCPDTBT/PCBM on the addition of 1, 8-di-iodooctane; through increased PCBM domain development [1]. Albrecht, S et al. (2012) also found that the addition of solvent additives drove phase segregation, in active layers containing  PCPDTBT, as displayed in the energy filtered transmission electron microscopy, EFTEM surface images; Figure 5 below [13].

However, the authors do not report the enhanced device properties, that result from improved nano-morphologies of PCPDTBT; improved mobility [13], reduced field dependence [13] improved  short circuit current [14], enhanced optical absorption [13, 14]. Both thermal and solvent additive morphological optimisation techniques were found to drive phase segregation and improve various properties of OPVs [1, 8, 12, 13]. Yet, the discussion of morphology optimisation procedures by Mazzio. et al. (2015) will provide valuable information to new researchers, to the popular field of OPVs, on how power conversion efficiencies can be enhanced.

Conclusively, from the discussion above it is apparent that the review by Mazzio, et al. (2015) demonstrates an informative insight into potential routes of optimisation of OPV efficiencies. The review allows the reader to recognise the influence that components in an OPV can have on the device efficiency. Overall, this review article was mostly consistent but in certain areas the information presented was inaccurate, perhaps, owing to negligence.

Predominantly, Mazzio, et al. (2015) presented a well-structured review suitable for those new to the field. Moreover, for future work I would suggest that the writers present a literature review on the current status and future applications of small molecules suitable to those new to the field, since, these are limited.

By Naeema Ebrahim


[1]          K. A. Mazzio, C. K. Luscombe, Chemical Society Reviews 2015, 44, 78.

[2]          A. K.,  2011.

[3]          Q. Zhang, B. Kan, F. Liu, G. K. Long, X. J. Wan, X. Q. Chen, Y. Zuo, W. Ni, H. J. Zhang, M. M. Li, Z. C. Hu, F. Huang, Y. Cao, Z. Q. Liang, M. T. Zhang, T. P. Russell, Y. S. Chen, Nature Photonics 2015, 9, 35.

[4]          S. H. Liao, H. J. Jhuo, P. N. Yeh, Y. S. Cheng, Y. L. Li, Y. H. Lee, S. Sharma, S. A. Chen, Scientific Reports 2014, 4.

[5]          C. J. Brabec, S. Gowrisanker, J. J. M. Halls, D. Laird, S. J. Jia, S. P. Williams, Advanced Materials 2010, 22, 3839.

[6]          S. K. Hau, H.-L. Yip, N. S. Baek, J. Zou, K. O’Malley, A. K. Y. Jen, Applied Physics Letters 2008, 92.

[7]          O. P. Lee, A. T. Yiu, P. M. Beaujuge, C. H. Woo, T. W. Holcombe, J. E. Millstone, J. D. Douglas, M. S. Chen, J. M. J. Frechet, Advanced Materials 2011, 23, 5359.

[8]          Z. Yi, W. Ni, Q. Zhang, M. Li, B. Kan, X. Wan, Y. Chen, Journal of Materials Chemistry C 2014, 2, 7247.

[9]          Z. C. He, C. M. Zhong, S. J. Su, M. Xu, H. B. Wu, Y. Cao, Nature Photonics 2012, 6, 591.

[10]        J. You, L. Dou, K. Yoshimura, T. Kato, K. Ohya, T. Moriarty, K. Emery, C.-C. Chen, J. Gao, G. Li, Y. Yang, Nature Communications 2013, 4.

[11]        S. Sista, Z. Hong, L.-M. Chen, Y. Yang, Energy & Environmental Science 2011, 4, 1606.

[12]        A. U. Xiaohan Yang, and Matthew Wright, Vol. 4, American scientific publishers,  2012, 1.

[13]        S. Albrecht, W. Schindler, J. Kurpiers, J. Kniepert, J. C. Blakesley, I. Dumsch, S. Allard, K. Fostiropoulos, U. Scherf, D. Neher, Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters 2012, 3, 640.

[14]        T. Agostinelli, T. A. M. Ferenczi, E. Pires, S. Foster, A. Maurano, C. Muller, A. Ballantyne, M. Hampton, S. Lilliu, M. Campoy-Quiles, H. Azimi, M. Morana, D. D. C. Bradley, J. Durrant, J. E. Macdonald, N. Stingelin, J. Nelson, Journal of Polymer Science Part B-Polymer Physics 2011, 49, 717.

A Critical Study of the Field Dependence of Charge Generation and Recombination in Polymer Fullerene Solar Cells


An experimental study of the field dependence of photogeneration in PCPDTBT/PCBM blends have been described in the research paper: ‘Field-Independent Charge Photogeneration in PCPDTBT/PCBM Solar Cells’ written by Fiona, C. Jamieson, Tiziano Agostinelli, Hamed Azimi, Jenny Nelson and James Durrant [1]. Field dependence of photogeneration in the following PCPDTBT/PCBM blends have been analysed using transient absorption spectroscopy (TAS):

  • (C-PCPDTBT + octane dithiol (OD)/PCBM have been assessed in this paper [1].

ODT is a processing agent used to effect the morphology of  a polymer blend through phase separation [2].

The paper is aimed at probing the effect of an applied electric field on photogeneration using TAS decays of PCPDTBT/PCBM blends [1]. Here I will summarise the main arguments, strengths and limitations in the research paper by Jameison, F, C. et al. (2010) will be discussed in this review.

Non-geminate recombination in PCPDTBT/PCBM blends containing octanedithiol (ODT)

Jamieson, F, C. et al. (2010) fitted a power law onto a TAS decay of an active layer blend (C-PCPDTBT/PCBM) to demonstrate that the blend follows a non-geminate (bimolecular) recombination route; figure 1 [1]. Researchers have applied this method to identifying non-geminate recombination in TAS decays [3][4].

The transient decay in figure 1 was shown to fit the power law decay, fulfilling the following equation:

Where OD is optical density, is equal to time, the exponent (alpha) is equal to T/T0, where T is temperature and  T0 represents the characteristic temperature [5].

Figure 1: (a) displays a transient decay signal for a C-PCPDTBT/PCBM (ODT) blend (b) displays a typical TAS decay of C-PCPDTBT/PCBM (ODT) where the decay is shown to fit the power law (red) [1].
Figure 1: (a) displays a transient decay signal for a C-PCPDTBT/PCBM (ODT) blend (b) displays a typical TAS decay of C-PCPDTBT/PCBM (ODT) where the decay is shown to fit the power law (red) [1].
Non-geminate recombination pathways, in all blends, were identified through fitting power laws to transient decay signals; a method supported by various researchers [1][3][4]. Yet, the authors mention that they were unable to quantify non-geminate recombination losses in the PCPDTBT/PCBM blends, as the blends were irradiated to produce a greater polaron density than solar irradiation would produce [1].  Hence, non-geminate recombination losses could not be estimated for these blends [1]. Quantifying the degree of non-geminate recombination in PCPDTBT/PCBM blends might have been useful for the authors to determine the effect of ODT addition and understand the increase in power conversion efficienciesshort circuit currents and fill factors of PCPDTBT/PCBM blends containing ODT [1][2].

ODT introduction in PCPDTBT/PCBM blends, studied by Agostinelli, T. et al. (2011), promoted faster non-geminate recombination as well as a higher degree of photogeneration, when compared to C-PCPDTBT/PCBM blends [2]. Yet, this faster non-geminate recombination was shown to inhibit the blend from reaching its ideal power conversion efficiency [2]. Furthermore, without quantifying recombination in these blends, Jamieson, F, C. et al. (2010) found that ODT improved the efficiency of the solar cell [1]. Whilst being ignorant to the fact that ODT increased recombination, reducing the efficiency of the solar cell [2]. From the results depicted by Agostinelli, T. et al. (2011), it is evident that quantifying loss mechanisms such as non-geminate recombination is important to understanding the efficiency of a solar cell [2][6].

Studying field dependence

Within the paper by Jamieson, F, C. et al. (2010), the authors reason that all analysed PCPDTBT/PCBM blends are independent of an applied bias, since, their initial absorptions, across all applied biases, were within the signal to noise ratio limits of 10% (as shown in figure 2) [1]. From figure 2, the authors deduced that blends with greater initial absorption magnitudes, were shown to possess greater power conversion efficiencies [1]. The authors found that the initial absorption magnitude represents the initial yield of dissociated charge carriers [1]. Furthermore, the authors were able to demonstrate that the initial yield of dissociated polarons (charge generation) is independent of an applied bias [1]. The data displayed in figure 2 was an effective means of comparing blend efficiencies and demonstrating that all blends were independent of an applied bias. It can be clearly noted, from figure 2, that blends containing ODT demonstrate higher charge generation efficiencies, as demonstrated by Agostinelli, T. et al. (2011) [2].

Figure 2: displays photo induced absorption transients for all three blends, at various applied biases [1].
Figure 2: displays photo induced absorption transients for all three blends, at various applied biases [1].
The addition of a processing agent was also found to enhance the charge generation efficiency in C-PCPDTBT/PCBM studied by Albrecht, S. et al. (2012) [7]. A PCPDTBT/PCBM blend containing a processing agent, diooctane, was shown to possess a greater power conversion efficiency and short circuit current [7]. Yet, unlike, Jamieson, F, C. et al. (2010), Albrecht, S. et al. (2012) studied the direct correlation between an applied bias and charges extracted from electrodes over the course of an experiment: free charge generation efficiency, Q(TOT), as shown in figure 3 below [7]. From figure 3, the free charge generation efficiency, Q(TOT) and therefore, device efficiency increases with increasing internal field [7]. Moreover, an increase in internal field yields a greater collected charge density, hence, a more efficient solar cell.  Furthermore, Albrecht, S. et al. (2012) was able to directly correlate the efficiency of a polymer/fullerene blend to an applied bias [7]. Jamieson, F, C. et al. (2010) were unable to demonstrate a clear correlation between device efficiency and applied field as demonstrated in figure 3.

Figure 3: displays I/V curve of the C-PCPDTBT/PCBM blend related to Q_TOT [6].
Figure 3: displays I/V curve of the C-PCPDTBT/PCBM blend related to Q_TOT [6].

To conclude, the aims of the research paper by Fiona, C. Jamieson and Tiziano Agostinelli were met; photogeneration in PCPDTBT/PCBM solar cells were found to demonstrate independence from an applied bias. Moreover, Figure 2 was effective means of demonstrating this, as well as, comparing blend efficiencies.

However, in avoiding the quantification of recombination the researchers were unable to understand the full effect of adding the processing agent, ODT, on the efficiency of the solar cell. Furthermore, the authors could be advised to carry out further research to investigate the influence of the processing agent on recombination kinetics (which should be quantified).

By Naeema Ebrahim


[1] Jamieson, F, C. Agnostinelli, T. Et al. Field Independent Charge Photogeneration in PCPDTBT/P Solar Cells, The Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, 2010, 1, 3306-3310.

[2] Agostinelli, T. Ferenczi, T, A, M. et al. The Role of Alkane Dithiols in Controlling Polymer Crystallization in Small Band Gap Polymer: Fullerene Solar Cells, Journal of Polymer Science, 2011, 49, 717-724.

[3] Shoaee, S. Eng, M, P. et al. Influence of Nanoscale Phase Separation on Geminate Versus Bimolecular Recombination in P3HT: fullerene Blend Films, Energy & Environmental Science, 2010, 3, 971-976. 

[4] Andersson, L, M. Melianas, A. et al. Unified Study of Recombination in Polymer: Fullerene Solar Cells Using Transient Absorption and Charge Extraction Measurements, The Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters,  2013, 12, 2069-2072.

[5] Kim, Y. Cook, S. et al. A Strong Regioregularity Effect in Self-Organizing Conjugated Polymer Film and High-Efficiency Polythiophene:fullerene Solar Cell, Nature Materials, 2006, 5, 197-203.

[6] Credgington, D. Jamieson, F, C. et al. (2012), Quantification of Geminate and Non –Geminate Recombination Losses within a Solution-Processed Small-Molecule Bulk Heterojunction Solar Cell, Advanced Materials, 2012, 24, 2135-2141.  

[7] Albrecht, S. Schnidler, W. et al. On the Field Dependence of Free Charge Carrier Generation and Recombination in Blends of PCPDTBT/PBM: Influence of Solvent Additives, The Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, 2012, 5, 640-645.  

[8] Peet, J. Kim, J, Y. et al. Efficiency Enhancement in Low-bandgap Polymer Solar Cells by Processing with Alkane Dithiols, Nature Materials, 2007, 6, 497-500.

[9] Guo, X. Zhou, Z. et al. Polymer Solar Cells with Enhanced Fill Factors, Nature Photonics, 2013, 7, 825-833.

[10] Shuttle, C, G. O’Regan, B. et al. Bimolecular recombination losses in Polythiophene: Fullerene solar cells, Physical Review B, 2008, 78,113203.

[11] Albrecht, S. Vandewal, K. et al. On the Efficiency of Charge Transfer State Splitting in Polymer:Fullerene Solar Cells, Advanced Materials, 2014, 26, 2533-2539.

[12] Mingebach, M. Walter, S. et al. Direct and Charge Transfer State Mediated Photogeneration in Polymer-Fullerene Bulk Heterojunction Solar Cells, Applied Physics Letters, 2012, 100, 193302.

[13] Zhou, Y. Zhang, F. et al Investigation on Polymer Anode Design for Flexible Polymer Solar Cells,  Applied Physics Letters, 2008, 92, 233308.

[14] Hawks, S, A. Deledalle, F. et al. Relating Recombination, Density of States and Device Performance on an Efficient Polymer: Fullerene Organic Solar Cell Blend, Advanced Energy Materials, 2013, 3, 1201-1209.

[15] Wiuf, C. Feliu, E. Power-Law Kinetics and Determinant Criteria for the Preclusion of Multistationarity in Networks of Interacting Species, Applied Dynamic Systems, 2013, 12, 1685-1721.

[16] Lenes, M. Morana, M. et al. Recombination-Limited Photocurrents in Low Bandgap Polymer/Fullerene Solar Cells, Advanced Functional Materials, 2009, 19, 1106-1111.  

[17] Mikhnenko, O, V. Azimi, H. et al. (2012) Exciton Diffusion Length in Narrow Bandgap Polymers, Energy & Environmental Science, 2015, 5, 6960.

[18] Moet, D, J, D. Lenes, M. et al. Enhanced Dissociation of Charge-Transfer States in Narrow Band Gap Polymer: Fullerene Solar Cells Processed with 1-, 8-octanedithiol, 2010, 96, 213506.

[19] Maurano, A. Hamilton, R. et al. Recombination Dynamics as a Key Determinant of Open Circuit Voltage in Organic Bulk Heterojunction Solar Cells: A Comparison of Four Different Donor Polymers, Advanced Materials, 2010, 22, 4987-4992.

[20] Credgington, D. Hamilton, R. Non-Geminate Recombination as the Primary Determinant of Open-Circuit Voltage in Polythiophene:Fullerene Blend Solar Cells: an Analysis of the Influence of Device Processing Conditions, Advanced Functional Materials, 2011, 21, 2744-2753.

[21] Servaites, J, D. Ratner, M, A. et al. Organic Solar Cells: A New Look at Traditional Models, Energy & Environmental Science, 2011, 4, 4410.   

A Critical Study of the Charge Generation Process in Organic Solar Cells


The current state of research concerning charge generation at the charge transfer (CT) state is summarised in ‘Charge Generation in Polymer-Fullerene Bulk-Heterojunction Solar Cells’ by Feng Gao and Olle Inganäs [1]. They aim their review at providing a balanced discussion of the possible mechanisms which drive charge dissociation at the CT state [1]. Researchers agree that the dissociation of charges occurs at the CT state as illustrated in figure 1 below [2][3][4].  Here I will provide an overview of strengths and limitations of the major arguments presented by Gao, F. Inganäs, O. et al. (2014) with respect to the charge generation process at the CT state [1].

Figure 1 displays the charge transfer state and the required movement of free charge carriers to the donor or acceptor materials within an organic solar cell [4].
Figure 1 displays the charge transfer state and the required movement of free charge carriers to the donor or acceptor materials within an organic solar cell [4].
The review written by Gao, F. Inganäs, O. et al. (2014) mainly focuses on the following topics (focusing on polymer:fullerene solar cells only):

  • How researchers in the field currently observe charge dissociation process experimentally.
  • A discussion of the most likely proposed mechanisms for charge dissociation at the CT state.
  • The effect of the electric field, disorder, mobility and temperature on charge dissociation at the CT state.

Does exciton dissociation occur through the Hot CT state or Relaxed CT state?

Hot CT state dissociation relies upon excess energy to dissociate tightly bound excitons into free charge carriers [1][5][6]. Whereas, the relaxed CT state does not rely on an energy excess since it is described as the lowest energy emissive interfacial state [1][7]. A weak argument is present by Gao, F. Inganäs, O. et al. (2014) in support of exciton dissociation at the hot CT state of polymer:fullerene OSCs [1]. Gao, F. Inganäs, O. et al. (2014) and other researchers imply that scientists in the field question whether charge dissociation occurs through one of two mechanisms: the relaxed CT state or hot CT state [1][5]. Gao, F. Inganäs, O. et al. (2014) cite transient absorption spectroscopy (TA) measurements conducted by Ohkita, H. et al (2008) to support the argument that the exciton dissociation occurs through the hot CT state [1][8]. Ohkita, H. et al. (2008) demonstrates that excess energy produced after exciton dissociation provides greater kinetic energy for CT state dissociation [1][8].Implying that excess energy can help to drive exciton dissociation and further support the hot CT state theory. Gonzalez, J, C. et al. (2011) suggests that the probability of excitons overcoming an energy barrier to form dissociated pairs increases with increasing thermal energy [9]. Deibel, C. et al. (2010) reiterates this; the introduction of excess energy at the donor acceptor interface will lead to the activation of higher vibrational modes resulting in effective charge carrier production [3]. Furthermore, from the cited literature one can assume that excess energy will yield a greater level of dissociation in charge carriers [3][5][9]. However, this argument does not necessarily disprove the relaxed CT state mechanism.

Strong experimental evidence is provided to suggest that exciton dissociation occurs through the relaxed CT state in polymer: fullerene OSCs [1]. Gao, F. Inganäs, O. et al. (2014) cites strong experimental work by Vandewal, K. et al. (2014) suggesting that dissociation through the relaxed CT state is more viable. Vandewal, K. et al. (2014) displayed that the internal quantum efficiency (IQE), which can be calculated from the number of minority carriers which contribute to the short circuit current divided by the number of photons entering the cell of the system, remained constant irrespective of the degree of excess energy in the system [1][7]. Both, Vandewal, K. et al (2014) and Gao, F. Inganäs, O. et al. (2014) felt that this evidence strongly suggests that charge dissociation occurs via the relaxed CT state [7]. To further support this argument, the authors cited experiments performed by Howard, I, A. (2010) whereby TA measurements were recorded for both regiorandom (RRa) and regioregular (RR) forms of P3HT in blends with PCBM [10][11]. Where regiorandom blends have a regular chain like morphology, whereas regioregular systems have increased inter chain interaction, hence, possess lamellae like structure, as displayed in Figure 2 below [10][11]. Howard, I, A. (2010) found that the regiorandom polymers had a larger  (excess thermal energy) value than the regioregular form, yet displayed a lower free charge carrier generation [1][12]. Furthermore, the authors provide strong experimental evidence in support of the relaxed CT state. The evidence emphasises that excess energy does not drive charge carrier generation at the CT state; suggesting that charge dissociation does not occur solely through the hot CT state.

Figure 2 displays (a) regiorandom P3HT and (b) regioregular P3HT [11].
Figure 2 displays (a) regiorandom P3HT and (b) regioregular P3HT [11].
Consideration of the driving force of the relaxed CT state

The driving force of the relaxed CT state is not addressed under the segment titled ‘Driving force in the case of dissociation via the relaxed CT state’ of the review written by Gao, F. Inganäs, O. et al. (2014). However, the authors digress from this topic to describe the effect of: electric field, disorder, mobility and temperature on charge dissociation at the CT state (with respect to the Braun Onsager theory, as explained below) [1]. Furthermore, in the conclusion of the review the authors mention that they have considered the driving force of CT charge dissociation in their review, however, this is not the case. The effects of the mentioned parameters on charge dissociation have been displayed instead.

Effect of temperature on charge generation process

In accordance to Gao, F. Inganäs, O. et al. (2014)  and other researchers the Braun Onsager model provides an unrealistic, hence, ineffective description of CT state dissociation in a polymer:fullerene solar cell [1][3][5][7]. Gao, F. Inganäs, O. et al. (2014) presents limitations and strengths of the Braun Onsager theory through a balanced appraisal of some parameters (electric field, temperature and mobility) in order to comprehend their role in explaining charge generation at the CT state [1]. Gao, F. Inganäs, O. et al. (2014) argue that one of the limitations of the Braun Onsager model is its dependence on temperature, since, the model displays that a decrease in temperature will result in an exponential reduction in the rate of dissociation at the CT state [1]. The authors present a weak argument in support of the independence of charge dissociation from temperature. However, the authors suggested that at low temperatures a significant photocurrent was observed, using this to confirm the independence of charge generation on temperature [1][8]. However, the authors cited Chirvase, D. et al (2003, pp 3381) in support of their argument, who experimentally observed that at low temperatures materials only generated a few charge carriers which were not easily transported [13]. Furthermore, the evidence provided in support of the argument did not suitably justify the statement made by the authors. Additionally, the evidence does not disprove the hot dissociation state; furthermore, the argument requires more experimental justification. Yet, researchers such as Gonzalez, J, C. et al. (2011) agree that from an experimental observation charge dissociation at the CT state is independent of temperature [5]. Hence, the assumptions made by the authors can be justified through experimental evidence. Furthermore, thermal induction into a system should yield an increase in charge carrier generation, but, might not necessarily drive the process.


From the review by Gao, F. Inganäs, O. et al. (2014) it seems that the exciton dissociation route through the relaxed CT state seems more viable due to the strong experimental evidence displayed in comparison to that of the hot CT state. The introduction of thermal energy into the system, or the presence of excess energy will result in a greater likelihood of charge dissociation, hence, temperature could be viewed as a relevant parameter in describing charge dissociation [3][5][9][8].

In order to improve their review Gao, F. Inganäs, O. et al. (2014) could provide more relevant evidence to justify claims made. Further studies on the driving force and charge dissociation mechanism at the relaxed CT state would be useful, in order to potentially confirm its observance at the CT state.

By Naeema Ebrahim


[1] Gao, F. Inganäs, O. Charge Generation in Polymer-Fullerene Bulk-Heterojunction Solar Cells, Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics, 2014, 16, 2091-20303, Royal Society of Chemistry.
[2] Shoaee, S. Clarke, T, M. et al. Charge Photogeneration in Donor/Acceptor Organic Solar Cells, Journal of Photonics for Energy, 2011, 2.
[3] Zhou, Y. Tvingstedt, K. et al. Observation of a Charge Transfer State in Low-Bandgap Polymer/Fullerene Blend Systems by Photoluminescence and Electroluminescence Studies, Advanced Functional Materials, 2009, 19, 3293-3299.
[4] Deibel, C. Strobel, T. Dyakonov, V. Role of the Charge Transfer State in Organic Donor-Acceptor Solar Cells, Advanced Materials, 2010, 22, 4097-4111.
[5] Vithanage, D, A. et al. Visualising Charge Separation in Bulk Heterojunction Organic Solar Cells, Nature Communications, 2013, 4, 1-6.
[6] Grancini, G. Maiuri, M. et al. Hot Exciton Dissociation in Polymer Solar Cells, Nature Materials, 2012, 12, 29-33.
[7] Vandewal, K. Albrecht, S. et al. Efficient Charge Generation by Relaxed Charge-Transfer States at Organic Interfaces, Nature Materials, 2014, 13, 63-68.
[8] Ohkita, H. Cook, S. et al. Charge Carrier Formaiton in Polythiophene/Fullerene Blend Films Studied by Transient Absorption Spectroscopy, Journal of the American Chemical Society, 2008, 130, 3030-3042.
[9] Gonzalez, J, C. Grancini, G. Lanzani, G. Pump-Probe Spectroscopy in Organic Semiconductors: Monitoring Fundamental Processes of Relevance in Optoelectronics, Advanced Materials, 2011, 23, 5468-5485.
[10] Jiang, X, M. Ӧsterbacka, R. et al. Spectroscopic Studies of Photoexcitations in Regioregular and Regiorandom Polythiophene Films, Advanced Functional Materials, 2002, 12, 587-597.
[11] Klauk, H. Organic Thin-Film Transistors, Chemical Society Reviews, 2009, 39, 2643-2666.
[12] Howard, I, A. Mauer, R. et al Effect of Morphology on Ultrafast Free Carrier Generation in Polythiophene: Fullerene Organic Solar Cells, Journal of the American Chemical Society, 2010, 132, 14866-14876.
[13] Chirvase, D. Chiguvare, Z. et al. Temperature Dependent Characterisitics of Poly(3 hexylthiophene Based Heterojunction Organic Solar Cells, Journal of Applied Physics, 2002, 93, 3376-3383.
[14] Howard, I, A. Mauer, R. Meisterm M. Laquai, F. Effect of Morphology on Ultrafast Free Carrier Generation in Polythiophene: Fullerene Organic Solar Cells, Journal of the American Chemical Society, 2010, 132, 14866-14876.
[15] Singh, S. Vardeny, Z, V. Ultrafast Transient Spectroscopy of Polymer/Fullerene Blends for Organic Photovoltaic Applications, Materials, 2013, 6, 897-910.
[16] Servaites, J, D. Savoie, B, M et al. Modeling Geminate Pair Dissociation in Organic Solar Cells:High Power Conversion Efficiencies Achieved with Moderate Optical Bandgaps, Energy and Environmental Science, 2012, 5, 8343.
[17] Servaites, J, D. Ratner, M, A. Marks, T, J. Organic Solar Cells: A New Look at Traditional Models, Energy and Environmental Science, 2011, 4, 4410-4422.
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Critical Review- Plastic Solar Cells: A Multidisciplinary Field to Construct Chemical Concepts from Current Research, By Rafael Gόmez and José L. Segura.

Rafael Gόmez and José L. Segura’s ‘Plastic Solar Cells: A Multidisciplinary Field to Construct Chemical Concepts from Current Research’ provides an overview of organic solar cells; their structure, principles and how to improve their performance [1]. I have tried to highlight particular strengths displayed within the text and regions where improvement could be made. The review article is comprised of the following sub sections, titled: • Characteristics of Organic Solar Cells, • Structure and Principles of Operation of an Organic Solar Cell • Design of a Successful Material for Organic Photovoltaics • Conclusion. A brief introduction is provided in the review, whereby, the writers enthusiastically discuss the importance of organic photovoltaics to various scientific fields of study and reinforce the importance of educating students on this topic [1]. Gόmez, R. Segura, J, L. (2007, pp 253) claim that the aim of their review is to ‘propose examples of plastic solar-cell technology to illustrate core concepts in chemistry’ going on to state that this information will be of interest to teachers [1]. The aim of the review is consistent with the purpose of the journal in which it is published; Journal of Chemical Education, which as stated on its website, is a ‘resource to those in the field of chemical education’ [2]. Within the Characteristics of Organic Solar Cells segment, the authors provide a synopsis of the processes and general parameters which affect the operation of a photovoltaic device and the basis of organic solar cells [1]. The writers seem to describe organic solar cells as possessing a p-n junction; two contrastively doped inorganic semiconductor crystals connected at a continuous interface, sandwiched between a substrate and oxidised layer [3]. Figure 1 below illustrates charge migration within a typical p-n junction consisting of extrinsic, inorganic semiconductors [4]. Gόmez, R. et al (2007, pp 253) explains that the electron concentration is ‘much larger on the n side than on the p side’ [1]. Peer reviewed literature on organic solar cells describe the device as possessing donor type and acceptor type organic substances sandwiched between a cathode and anode [3][5]. Also, electrons are also present in the same concentration on the p side; however, these electrons are immobile [3]. Hence, it would have been increasingly correct to state that the majority carriers on the p-type semiconductor are holes, whereas, those on the n-type region are electrons [3].

Displays a typical p-n junction within an inorganic solar cell [4].
Displays a typical p-n junction within an inorganic solar cell [4].
Figure 1 displays a typical p-n junction within an inorganic solar cell [4]. Within the Structure and Principles of Operation of an Organic Solar Cell segment of the review, the writers provide a simple overview of the typical conformations of organic photovoltaic cells (OPVs), and outline the main processes which occur within the cell [1]. Gόmez, R. Segura, J, L. (2007, pp 254) presents an accurate, clear, sequential summary of the processes which occur within an OPV: ‘(i) absorption (ii) generation of charge carriers (iii) transport of charge carriers to the electrodes (iv) collection of charges’[1]. The summary above is illustrated pictographically within Figure 2 below [6]. Like, Gόmez, R. Segura, J, L. (2007), Clarke, T, M. et al. (2010) chronologically summarises the processes involved in an OPV device following photo irradiation from a light source [1][5]. Gόmez, R. Segura, J, L. (2007, pp 255) goes on to state that there is a ‘small chance’ for recombination of charge carriers ‘as they do not have to diffuse through the same material’ [1]. Clarke, T, M. et al.(2010, pp 6737) opposes this view affirming that within polymer: fullerene OPVs ‘despite being located on different materials, the electron hole pairs are still expected to exhibit significant Coulomb attraction’ which could result in the unideal recombination of charges [3]. Günes, S. et al. (2007, pp 1327-1328) emphasises the possibility of recombination in the ‘operating principles’ segment of their review, stating that the ‘transport of charges is affected by recombination during the journey to the electrodes’ [7]. There is a clear likelihood of charge recombination as the charges travel towards the electrodes, as outlined by Clarke, T, M et al. and Günes, S et al [3][7]. However, the views of Gόmez, R. Segura, J, L. (2007) may cause the reader to misinterpret this information and believe that recombination is not an issue within OPVs where in actuality, it is [3][7].

An organic solar cell: displaying the [i] absorption [ii] generation of charges [iii] recombination [iv] charge carrier migration  and collection of charges
An organic solar cell: displaying the [i] absorption [ii] generation of charges [iii] recombination [iv] charge carrier migration and collection of charges
Figure 2 displays an organic solar cell: displaying the [1] absorption [2] generation of charges [3] recombination [4] charge carrier migration/collection of charges [6]. In the final segment of the review the authors discuss methods which can be employed in order to effectively increase: solar absorbance, charge carrier mobility and dissociation of excitons within an OPV [1]. Significantly, each of the factors mentioned is essential in formulating an efficient solar cell [5][7][8][9]. The authors delegate a key issue in organic solar cell devices which are low intrinsic mobilities [1][5]. To resolve this issue, Gόmez, R. et al (2007 pp 255) suggests the addition of inorganic compounds, in a bid to increase ‘electron mobility and transport’ within an OPV [1]. Hybridised solar cells (solar devices containing both inorganic and organic photoactive compounds) have been discussed by Günes, S. et al (2007, pp 1334-1335) as an efficient charge carrier producer [7]. Nevertheless, Günes, S. et al (2007) highlights a key solubility limitation of hybrid solar cells; inorganic substances cannot be dissolved in organic solvents, unless ligand exchange is induced to increase the inorganic substances solubility [5]. However, the ligand will then obstruct charge transportation; furthermore, it will need to be removed [5]. Moreover, Gόmez, R. Segura, J, L. (2007), should have provided the limitations of hybridisation in order for the reader to evaluate whether or not this technique is suitable for its particular application. In the conclusion of the review, Gόmez, R. Segura, J, L. (2007) summarises the immense promise of developing OPV devices through collaborative work [1]. Gόmez, R. Segura, J, L. (2007, pp 257-258) refers to their initial aim, stating that the design of novel materials which will enhance the performance of OPVs should be ‘incorporated into the chemistry curriculum’ [1]. However, the writers haven’t clarified how the readers should implement this. Furthermore, a clear guide should have been provided within the text, of important, curriculum based chemical principles that should be taught. This was the aim of the text and could have been referred to in its main body to emphasise its intent. I have reasoned that while the review provides a clear, summative, comprehensible insight into organic photovoltaic devices, there are a few incidences where the writer provides inadequate information on a particular matter. Such as, underestimating the effects of charge recombination within OPVs, not providing the limitations of the hybridisation of inorganic compounds and not meeting the criterion of the aim [1]. Further development on the direct significance of organic photovoltaics in the chemical discipline is required for educators and students alike.

By Naeema Ebrahim

References [1] Gόmez, R. Segura, J, L. Plastic Solar Cells: A Multidisciplinary Field to Construct Chemical Concepts from Current Research, Journal of Chemical Education, 84 (2), 253-285, [2]American Chemical Society, Journal of Chemical Education, [online], Available at: http://pubs.acs.org/page/jceda8/about.html [Accessed date: 15/10/2014] [3] Zambuto, M. Semiconductor Devices, 1989, international ed, McGraw-Hill inc. [4] University of Wisconsin-Madison [online] Available at: http://education.mrsec.wisc.edu/SlideShow/slides/pn_junction/pn_junction_solar.html [Accessed date: 29/10/2014] [5]Clarke, T, M. Durrant, J, R. Charge Photogeneration in Organic Solar Cells, 2010, Chemical Reviews, 110, 6736-6767. [6] Elite Network of Bavaria, [online] Available at: https://www.elitenetzwerk.bayern.de/uploads/tx_templavoila/Text_Foto_560_350.jpg [Accessed date: 29/10/2014] [7]Günes, S. Neugebauer, H. Et al. Conjugated Polymer-Based Organic Solar Cells, Chemical Review, 2007, 107, 1324-1338. [8] Brabec, C, J. Sariciftci, N, S. Et al. Plastic Solar Cells, Advanced Functional Materials, 2001, 11, 15-26. [9] Brabec, C, J. Gowrisanker, S. et al. Polymer-Fullerene Bulk-Heterojunction Solar Cells, Advanced Materials, 2010, 22, 3839-3856. [10]Yang, X. Uddin, A. Effect of thermal annealing on P3HT: PCBM Bulk-Heterojunction Organic Solar Cells: A Critical Review, Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 2014, 30, 324-336. [11] Gan, Q. Bartoli, F, J. et al. Research Highlights on Organic Photovoltaics and Plasmonics, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, 2012, 4, 620-624. [12] Zhu, H. Wei, J. et al. Application of Carbon Materials in Photovoltaic Solar Cells, Solar Energy Materials & Solar Cells, 2009, 1461-1470. [13] Streetman, B, G. Solid State Electronic Devices, 1995, 4th ed, Prentice-Hall International Inc. [14] Kenyon, A, J. Recent Developments in Rare earth Doped Materials for Optoelectronics, Progress in Quantum Electronics, 2002, 26, 225-284, Elsevier. [15] Schmidt-Mende, L. et al. Self-Organized Discotic Liquid Crystals for High-Efficiency Organic Photovoltaics, Science, 2001, 293, 1119-1122. [16] Carrasco-Orozco, M. Tsoi, W, C. et al. New Photovoltaic Concept: Liquid-Crystal Solar Cells Using a Nematic Gel Template, Advanced Materials, 2006, 18, 1754-1758. [17] Benati, T, L. Venkataraman, D. Organic Solar Cells: An Overview Focusing on Active Layer Morphology, Photosynthesis Research, 2006, 87, 73-81.

Review articles

Hello All,

I will be using this platform to provide monthly reviews on journals relating to organic solar cells. I will be writing these reviews as part of an academic course which will be assessed.

I would truly encourage and appreciate your critique, regardless of whether or not you may be an expert in the field.

Thank you very much,