Morphological stability and performance of polymer-fullerene solar cells under thermal stress: The impact of photoinduced PC60BM oligomerization

Him Cheng Wong, Zhe Li, Ching Hong Tan, Hongliang Zhong, Zhenggang Huang, Hugo Bronstein, Iain McCulloch, João T. Cabral, James R. Durrant

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

124 Scopus citations


We report a general light processing strategy for organic solar cells (OSC) that exploits the propensity of the fullerene derivative PC60BM to photo-oligomerize, which is capable of both stabilizing the polymer:PC 60BM active layer morphology and enhancing the device stability under thermal annealing. The observations hold for blends of PC60BM with an array of benchmark donor polymer systems, including P3HT, DPP-TT-T, PTB7, and PCDTBT. The morphology and kinetics of the thermally induced PC60BM crystallization within the blend films are investigated as a function of substrate and temperature. PC60BM nucleation rates on SiOx substrates exhibit a pronounced peak profile with temperature, whose maximum is polymer and blend-composition dependent. Modest illumination (<10 mW/cm2) significantly suppresses nucleation, which is quantified as function of dose, but does not affect crystalline shape or growth, in the micrometer range. On PEDOT:PSS substrates, thermally induced PC60BM aggregation is observed on smaller (≈100 nm) length scales, depending upon donor polymer, and also suppressed by light exposure. The concurrent thermal dissociation process of PC60BM oligomers in blend films is also investigated and the activation energy of the fullerene-fullerene bond is estimated to be 0.96 ± 0.04 eV. Following light processing, the thermal stability, and thus lifetime, of PCDTBT:PC60BM devices increases for annealing times up to 150 h. In contrast, PCDTBT:PC70BM OSCs are found to be largely light insensitive. The results are rationalized in terms of the suppression of PC60BM micro-and nanoscopic crystallization processes upon thermal annealing caused by photoinduced PC60BM oligomerization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1297-1308
Number of pages12
JournalACS Nano
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 25 2014
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Materials Science
  • General Engineering
  • General Physics and Astronomy


  • organic solar cells
  • PCBM crystallization
  • PCBM photo-oligomerization
  • solar cell thermal stability and lifetime


Dive into the research topics of 'Morphological stability and performance of polymer-fullerene solar cells under thermal stress: The impact of photoinduced PC60BM oligomerization'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this