Development of new experimental techniques for studying transport and recombination in organic and inorganic thin film solar cells



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For more than 20 years, scientists have studied solar cells made from organic semiconductors. Throughout this time, device structures have evolved from bilayer devices to bulk heterojunction (BHJ) devices and even though efficiencies are approaching 10%, scientists still know relatively little about the transport of charge carriers and recombination mechanisms in these materials. Novel structures, based on lateral BHJ solar cells, have proven to be versatile tools to study transport and recombination mechanisms. In addition, these structures can easily be employed by researchers and solar cell manufacturers to determine the quality and measure the improvement of their materials. For these studies, poly(3-hexylthiophene) (P3HT):[6,6]-phenyl C61-butyric acid methyl ester (PCBM) has been employed due to its wide use among researchers as well as potential for commercialization. DC photocurrent measurements as a function of device length have yielded the mobility-lifetime product and the generation rate of free carriers within these BHJ devices. In addition to these parameters, the recombination rate as a function of light intensity provides information about the mechanisms of recombination. For example, by measuring the recombination rate as a function of applied electric field and light intensity we have found that recombination is unimolecular in nature and shifts to bimolecular at increased electric field strengths. Additionally, the mobility-lifetime product, generation rate, and recombination mechanism have been studied as a function of applied electric field, illumination spectrum, illumination intensity, etc. This information has provided much insight on physics of the P3HT:PCBM material system which did not exist before these studies.