X-ray nanoscopy of a bulk heterojunction
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionPLoS ONE. 2016, 11 (7), . 10.1371/journal.pone.0158345
Optimizing the morphology of bulk heterojunctions is known to significantly improve the photovoltaic performance of organic solar cells, but available quantitative imaging techniques are few and have severe limitations. We demonstrate X-ray ptychographic coherent diffractive imaging applied to all-organic blends. Specifically, the phase-separated morphology in bulk heterojunction photoactive layers for organic solar cells, prepared from a 50:50 blend of poly(3-hexylthiophene) (P3HT) and phenyl-C61-butyric acid methyl ester (PCBM) and thermally treated for different annealing times is imaged to high resolution. Moreover, using a fast-scanning calorimetry chip setup, the nano-morphological changes caused by repeated thermal annealing applied to the same sample could be monitored. X-ray ptychography resolves to better than 100 nm the phase-segregated domains of electron donor and electron acceptor materials over a large field of view within the active layers. The quantitative phase contrast images further allow us to estimate the local volume fraction of PCBM across the photovoltaically active layers. The volume fraction gradient for different regions provides insight on the PCBM diffusion across the depletion zone surrounding PCBM aggregates. Phase contrast X-ray microscopy is under rapid development, and the results presented here are promising for future studies of organic-organic blends, also under in situ conditions, e.g., for monitoring the structural stability during UV-Vis irradiation.