The prospect of using low cost, high throughput material deposition processes to fabricate organic circuitry and solar cells continues to drive research towards improving the performance of the semiconducting materials utilized in these devices. Conjugated aromatic polymers have emerged as a leading candidate semiconductor material class, due to their combination of their amenability to processing and reasonable electrical and optical performance. Challenges remain, however, to further improve the charge carrier mobility of the polymers for transistor applications and the power conversion efficiency for solar cells. This optimization requires a clear understanding of the relationship between molecular structure and both electronic properties and thin film morphology.In this Account, we describe an optimization process for a series of semiconducting polymers based on an electron rich indacenodithiophene aromatic backbone skeleton. We demonstrate the effect of bridging atoms, alkyl chain functionalization, and co-repeating units on the morphology, molecular orbital energy levels, charge carrier mobility, and solar cell efficiencies. This conjugated unit is extremely versatile with a coplanar aromatic ring structure, and the electron density can be manipulated by the choice of bridging group between the rings. The functionality of the bridging group also plays an important role in the polymer solubility, and out of plane aliphatic chains present in both the carbon and silicon bridge promote solubility. This particular polymer conformation, however, typically suppresses long range organization and crystallinity, which had been shown to strongly influence charge transport. In many cases, polymers exhibited both high solubility and excellent charge transport properties, even where there was no observable evidence of polymer crystallinity. The optical bandgap of the polymers can be tuned by the combination of the donating power of the bridging unit and the electron withdrawing nature of co-repeat units, alternating along the polymer backbone. Using strong donors and acceptors, we could shift the absorption into the near infrared.
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