Overcoming efficiency and stability limits in water-processing nanoparticular organic photovoltaics by minimizing microstructure defects

Chen Xie*, Thomas Heumüller, Wolfgang Gruber, Xiaofeng Tang, Andrej Classen, Isabel Schuldes, Matthew Bidwell, Andreas Späth, Rainer H. Fink, Tobias Unruh, Iain McCulloch, Ning Li, Christoph J. Brabec

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

72 Scopus citations


There is a strong market driven need for processing organic photovoltaics from eco-friendly solvents. Water-dispersed organic semiconducting nanoparticles (NPs) satisfy these premises convincingly. However, the necessity of surfactants, which are inevitable for stabilizing NPs, is a major obstacle towards realizing competitive power conversion efficiencies for water-processed devices. Here, we report on a concept for minimizing the adverse impact of surfactants on solar cell performance. A poloxamer facilitates the purification of organic semiconducting NPs through stripping excess surfactants from aqueous dispersion. The use of surfactant-stripped NPs based on poly(3-hexylthiophene) / non-fullerene acceptor leads to a device efficiency and stability comparable to the one from devices processed by halogenated solvents. A record efficiency of 7.5% is achieved for NP devices based on a low-band gap polymer system. This elegant approach opens an avenue that future organic photovoltaics processing may be indeed based on non-toxic water-based nanoparticle inks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number5335
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
C.X. and X.T. acknowledge the financial support from the China Scholarship Council (CSC). W.G., I.S., and T.U. gratefully acknowledge the funding of the Deutsche For-schungsgemeinschaft (DFG) through INST 90/825-1 FUGG, INST 90/751-1 FUGG, INST 90/827-1 FUGG, the "Cluster of Excellence Engineering of Advanced Materials (EAM)", the research training group GRK 1896 "In-Situ Microscopy with Electrons, X-rays and Scanning Probes" and the research unit FOR 1878 "Functional Molecular Structures on Complex Oxide Surfaces" and the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF, project numbers: 05K16WEB, 05K16WE1). R.H.F acknowledges financial support from the BMBF (contract 05K16WED). N.L. gratefully acknowledges the financial support from the DFG research grant: BR 4031/13-1 and the Bavarian Ministry of Economic Affairs and Media, Energy, and Technology by funding the HI-ERN (IEK11) of FZ Jülich. C.J.B. gratefully acknowledges the financial support through the “Aufbruch Bayern” initiative of the state of Bavaria (EnCN and “Solar Factory of the Future”), the Bavarian Initiative “Solar Technologies go Hybrid” (SolTech), and the SFB 953 (DFG).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018, The Author(s).

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)


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