The role of exciton lifetime for charge generation in organic solar cells at negligible energy-level offsets

Andrej Classen, Christos L. Chochos, Larry Lüer, Vasilis G. Gregoriou, Jonas Wortmann, Andres Osvet, Karen Forberich, Iain McCulloch, Thomas Heumüller, Christoph J. Brabec

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

214 Scopus citations


Organic solar cells utilize an energy-level offset to generate free charge carriers. Although a very small energy-level offset increases the open-circuit voltage, it remains unclear how exactly charge generation is affected. Here we investigate organic solar cell blends with highest occupied molecular orbital energy-level offsets (∆EHOMO) between the donor and acceptor that range from 0 to 300 meV. We demonstrate that exciton quenching at a negligible ∆EHOMO takes place on timescales that approach the exciton lifetime of the pristine materials, which drastically limits the external quantum efficiency. We quantitatively describe this finding via the Boltzmann stationary-state equilibrium between charge-transfer states and excitons and further reveal a long exciton lifetime to be decisive in maintaining an efficient charge generation at a negligible ∆EHOMO. Moreover, the Boltzmann equilibrium quantitatively describes the major reduction in non-radiative voltage losses at a very small ∆EHOMO. Ultimately, highly luminescent near-infrared emitters with very long exciton lifetimes are suggested to enable highly efficient organic solar cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)711-719
Number of pages9
JournalNature Energy
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2020
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Fuel Technology
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology


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