Effect of Systematically Tuning Conjugated Donor Polymer Lowest Unoccupied Molecular Orbital Levels via Cyano Substitution on Organic Photovoltaic Device Performance

Abby Casey, Stoichko D. Dimitrov, Pabitra Shakya-Tuladhar, Zhuping Fei, Malgorzata Nguyen, Yang Han, Thomas D. Anthopoulos, James R. Durrant, Martin Heeney

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117 Scopus citations


We report a systematic study into the effects of cyano substitution on the electron accepting ability of the common acceptor 4,7-bis(thiophen-2-yl)-2,1,3-benzothiadiazole (DTBT). We describe the synthesis of DTBT monomers with either 0, 1, or 2 cyano groups on the BT unit and their corresponding copolymers with the electron rich donor dithienogermole (DTG). The presence of the cyano group is found to have a strong influence on the optoelectronic properties of the resulting donor-acceptor polymers, with the optical band gap red-shifting by approximately 0.15 eV per cyano substituent. We find that the polymer electron affinity is significantly increased by ∼0.25 eV upon addition of each cyano group, while the ionization potential is less strongly affected, increasing by less than 0.1 eV per cyano substituent. In organic photovoltaic (OPV) devices power conversion efficiencies (PCE) are almost doubled from around 3.5% for the unsubstituted BT polymer to over 6.5% for the monocyano substituted BT polymer. However, the PCE drops to less than 1% for the dicyano substituted BT polymer. These differences are mainly related to differences in the photocurrent, which varies by 1 order of magnitude between the best (1CN) and worst devices (2CN). The origin of this variation in the photocurrent was investigated by studying the charge generation properties of the photoactive polymer-fullerene blends using fluorescence and transient absorption spectroscopic techniques. These measurements revealed that the improved photocurrent of 1CN in comparison to 0CN was due to improved light harvesting properties while maintaining a high exciton dissociation yield. The addition of one cyano group to the BT unit optimized the position of the polymer LUMO level closer to that of the electron acceptor PC71BM, such that the polymer's light harvesting properties were improved without sacrificing either the exciton dissociation yield or device VOC. We also identify that the drop in performance for the 2CN polymer is caused by very limited yields of electron transfer from the polymer to the fullerene, likely caused by poor orbital energy level alignment with the fullerene acceptor (PC71BM). This work highlights the impact that small changes in chemical structure can have on the optoelectronic and device properties of semiconducting polymer. In particular this work highlights the effect of LUMO-LUMO offset on the excited state dynamics of polymer-fullerene blends.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5110-5120
Number of pages11
JournalChemistry of Materials
Issue number14
StatePublished - Jul 26 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Generated from Scopus record by KAUST IRTS on 2023-02-14

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Materials Chemistry
  • General Chemical Engineering
  • General Chemistry


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