The Chemistry and Applications of Heteroisoindigo Units as Enabling Links for Semiconducting Materials

Yazhou Wang, Yaping Yu, Hailiang Liao, Yecheng Zhou, Iain McCulloch, Wan Yue

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


ConspectusBecause of their lowerature processing properties and inherent mechanical flexibility, semiconducting materials are promising candidates for enabling flexible displays, renewable energy, biological sensors, and healthcare. Progress has been made in materials performance by developing judicious materials design strategies. For example, improvements in electron transport have required new electron-deficient aromatics. Among them, isoindigo (IID) is an important functional group utilized in conjugated aromatics, where the structure combines two sets of five-membered electron-withdrawing lactam rings, exhibiting enhanced solubility, excellent chemical and thermal stabilities, broad absorption, and intriguing electron affinity.In the past decade, researchers have mainly focused on IID-based materials. However, the effect of heteroatom modification of the IID core has rarely been systemically investigated. In conventional conjugated polymers, single bonds connect the monomers, leading to energetic disorder and torsion defects, while ladder-type polymers are often intractable because of their fused nature. In this regard, the molecular design of new πscaffolds based on IID is central to the development of high-performance semiconductor polymers. Especially, a complete refresh of molecular design strategies and novel conjugated polymers with unique structures are needed to circumvent the disadvantages of the conventional ladder-type polymers.In this Account, we systematically summarize our recent progress in the design, synthesis, and structure-property relationships of IID-and particularly hetero-IID-based functional materials. More specifically, starting with molecular engineering of hetero-IIDs with variable electronic effects, conjugation lengths, and numbers of heterorings, we discuss the effect of the heteroring on the absorption spectra and energy levels. Additionally, we investigate a series of electron-withdrawing substitution of IIDs and hetero-IIDs and their molecular self-assembly behavior and the device performance. Furthermore, we discuss a series of IID-bis(EDOT) copolymers with hydrophilic ethylene glycol side chains for accumulation-mode organic thin-film electrochemical transistors, in which the relationships among the molecular structure, operational stability, film morphology, and device performance were revealed. Compared with IID polymers, the HOMO levels and optical band gaps of the thiophene and thienothiophene IID copolymers markedly decrease, and these polymers exhibit ambipolar charge transport. When we further expanded the IID core to a thieno[3,2-b][1]benzothiophene isoindigo (TBTI) core, such as in TBTIT, bulk-heterojunction solar cells employing this polymer class as the electron donor achieved good efficiency for additive-and annealing-free device conditions. When we introduced electron-deficient pyridine on the IID core, both the LUMO and HOMO energy levels of the copolymers markedly decreased, which significantly improved the electron mobility. In addition, we compare the correlation between the polymer structures of IID and hetero-IID copolymers with thiophene and benzothiophene as comonomers and their absorption spectra and energy levels. In particular, we evaluate the planarity and the dihedral angle between the repeat units, with systematic analysis by theoretical calculations to support our design concepts. We discuss polymer designs arising from simple aldol condensation, where the rigid backbone conformation has been locked by the double bonds. Our polymers display broad absorption from the visible to the NIR-II region, and more importantly, the high electron affinities of these polymers provide a platform to realize ambient-stable electron transport in solution-processed organic thin-film transistors. These exciting results are expected to open doors to new horizons of semiconducting materials in terms of other charming applications and the design and synthesis of superior materials.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2855-2868
Number of pages14
JournalAccounts of chemical research
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 15 2020
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Chemistry


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