Synthesis and characterisation of interfacial layers in organic solar cells

  • Anna Isakova

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The quest for renewable energy sources has led to growing attention in the research of organic photovoltaics (OPVs), as a promising alternative to fossil fuels, since these devices have low manufacturing costs and attractive end-user qualities, such as ease of installation and maintenance. Wide application of OPVs is majorly limited by the devices lifetime. With the development of new encapsulation materials, some degradation factors, such as water and oxygen ingress, can almost be excluded, whereas the thermal degradation of the devices remains a major issue. Two aspects have to be addressed to solve the problem of thermal instability: bulk effects in the photoactive layer and interfacial effects at the photoactive layer/charge-transporting layers.

In this work, the interface between photoactive layer and electron-transporting zinc oxide (ZnO) in devices with inverted architecture was engineered by introducing polymeric interlayers, based on zinc-binding ligands, such as 3,4-dihydroxybenzene and 8-hydroxyquinoline. Also, a cross-linkable layer of poly(3,4-dimethoxystyrene) and its fullerene derivative were studied. At first, controlled reversible addition-fragmentation chain transfer (RAFT) polymerisation was employed to achieve well-defined polymers in a range of molar masses, all bearing a chain-end functionality for further modifications. Resulting polymers have been fully characterised, including their thermal and optical properties, and introduced as interlayers to study their effect on the initial device performance and thermal stability.

Poly(3,4-dihydroxystyrene) and its fullerene derivative were found unsuitable for application in devices as they increased the work function of ZnO and created a barrier for electron extraction. On the other hand, their parental polymer, poly(3,4-dimethoxystyrene), and its fullerene derivative, upon cross-linking, resulted in enhanced efficiency and stability of devices, if compared to control. Polymers based on 8-hydroxyquinoline ligand had a negative effect on the initial stability of the devices, but increased the lifetime of the cells under accelerated thermal stress. Comprehensive studies of the key mechanisms, determining efficiency, such as charge generation and extraction, were performed by using time-resolved electrical and spectroscopic techniques, in order to understand in detail the effect of the interlayers on the device performance. Obtained results allow deeper insight into mechanisms of degradation that limit the lifetime of devices and prompt the design of better materials for the interface stabilisation.
Date of Award1 Feb 2016
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorPaul Topham (Supervisor)


  • organic photovoltaics
  • thermal stability
  • polymeric interlayers
  • RAFT
  • transient absorption spectroscopy.

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