Journal of the American Chemical Society, vol. 134, issue 9 (2012) pp. 4142-4152
Record-setting organic photovoltaic cells with PTB polymers have recently achieved ~8% power conversion efficiencies (PCE). A subset of these polymers, the PTBF series, has a common conjugated backbone with alternating thieno[3,4-b]thiophene and benzodithiophene moieties but differs by the number and position of pendant fluorine atoms attached to the backbone. These electron-withdrawing pendant fluorine atoms fine tune the energetics of the polymers and result in device PCE variations of 2-8%. Using near-IR, ultrafast optical transient absorption (TA) spectroscopy combined with steady-state electrochemical methods we were able to obtain TA signatures not only for the exciton and charge-separated states but also for an intramolecular ("pseudo") charge-transfer state in isolated PTBF polymers in solution, in the absence of the acceptor phenyl-C(61)-butyric acid methyl ester (PCBM) molecules. This led to the discovery of branched pathways for intramolecular, ultrafast exciton splitting to populate (a) the charge-separated states or (b) the intramolecular charge-transfer states on the subpicosecond time scale. Depending on the number and position of the fluorine pendant atoms, the charge-separation/transfer kinetics and their branching ratios vary according to the trend for the electron density distribution in favor of the local charge-separation direction. More importantly, a linear correlation is found between the branching ratio of intramolecular charge transfer and the charge separation of hole-electron pairs in isolated polymers versus the device fill factor and PCE. The origin of this correlation and its implications in materials design and device performance are discussed.
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