Intrinsic efficiency limits in low-bandgap non-fullerene acceptor organic solar cells

Safakath Karuthedath, Julien Gorenflot, Yuliar Firdaus, Neha Chaturvedi, Catherine S.P. De Castro, George T. Harrison, Jafar I. Khan, Anastasia Markina, Ahmed H. Balawi, Top Archie Dela Peña, Wenlan Liu, Ru Ze Liang, Anirudh Sharma, Sri H.K. Paleti, Weimin Zhang, Yuanbao Lin, Erkki Alarousu, Dalaver H. Anjum, Pierre M. Beaujuge, Stefaan De WolfIain McCulloch, Thomas D. Anthopoulos, Derya Baran, Denis Andrienko*, Frédéric Laquai*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

237 Scopus citations


In bulk heterojunction (BHJ) organic solar cells (OSCs) both the electron affinity (EA) and ionization energy (IE) offsets at the donor–acceptor interface should equally control exciton dissociation. Here, we demonstrate that in low-bandgap non-fullerene acceptor (NFA) BHJs ultrafast donor-to-acceptor energy transfer precedes hole transfer from the acceptor to the donor and thus renders the EA offset virtually unimportant. Moreover, sizeable bulk IE offsets of about 0.5 eV are needed for efficient charge transfer and high internal quantum efficiencies, since energy level bending at the donor–NFA interface caused by the acceptors’ quadrupole moments prevents efficient exciton-to-charge-transfer state conversion at low IE offsets. The same bending, however, is the origin of the barrier-less charge transfer state to free charge conversion. Our results provide a comprehensive picture of the photophysics of NFA-based blends, and show that sizeable bulk IE offsets are essential to design efficient BHJ OSCs based on low-bandgap NFAs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)378-384
Number of pages7
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This publication is based on work supported by the KAUST Office of Sponsored Research (OSR) under award nos. OSR-2018-CARF/CCF-3079 and OSR-CRG2018-3746. D.A. acknowledges funding from the BMBF grant InterPhase and MESOMERIE (grant nos. FKZ 13N13661, FKZ 13N13656) and the European Union Horizon 2020 research and innovation program ‘Widening materials models’ under grant agreement no. 646259 (MOSTOPHOS). D.A. also acknowledges the KAUST PSE Division for hosting his sabbatical in the framework of the Division’s Visiting Faculty program. A.M. acknowledges funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement no. 844655 (SMOLAC). We thank L. Sinatra of KAUST and Quantum Solutions LLC for assisting with the PLQY measurements. G.T.H acknowledges K. Graham and A. Amassian (and previous group members including M. Tietze and G.O.N. Ndjawa) for having designed and installed and worked on the IPES setup. In particular, G.T.H. acknowledges K. Graham’s kind assistance during the reconfiguration and optimization of the IPES setup, as well as U. Sharif for technical assistance.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Limited.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • General Materials Science
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering


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