Designing ternary blend bulk heterojunction solar cells with reduced carrier recombination and a fill factor of 77%

  • Nature Energy 1, Article number: 16118 (2016)
  • doi:10.1038/nenergy.2016.118
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In recent years the concept of ternary blend bulk heterojunction (BHJ) solar cells based on organic semiconductors has been widely used to achieve a better match to the solar irradiance spectrum, and power conversion efficiencies beyond 10% have been reported. However, the fill factor of organic solar cells is still limited by the competition between recombination and extraction of free charges. Here, we design advanced material composites leading to a high fill factor of 77% in ternary blends, thus demonstrating how the recombination thresholds can be overcome. Extending beyond the typical sensitization concept, we add a highly ordered polymer that, in addition to enhanced absorption, overcomes limits predicted by classical recombination models. An effective charge transfer from the disordered host system onto the highly ordered sensitizer effectively avoids traps of the host matrix and features an almost ideal recombination behaviour.

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This project has received funding from the European Community’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) under Grant Agreement no 607585 project OSNIRO. The authors gratefully acknowledge the support of the Cluster of Excellence ‘Engineering of Advanced Materials’ at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, which is funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) within the framework of its ‘Excellence Initiative’, Synthetic Carbon Allotropes (SFB953) and Solar Technologies go Hybrid (SolTech). The authors also acknowledge the Solar Factory of the Future as part of the Energy Campus Nuremberg (EnCN), which is supported by the Bavarian State Government (FKZ 20-3043.5). X-ray and SIMS analysis by NCSU was supported by the US Department of Energy, Office of Science, Basic Energy Sciences, Division of Materials Science and Engineering under Contract DE-FG02-98ER45737. X-ray data were acquired at beamlines, 7.3.3 and at the Advanced Light Source, which is supported by the Director, Office of Science, Office of Basic Energy Sciences, of the US Department of Energy under Contract No. DE-AC02-05CH11231. A. L. D. Kilcoyne, E. Schaible, C. Zhu, A. Hexemer, C. Wang and A. Young of the ALS (DOE) assisted with the measurements and provided instrument maintenance. X.J. acknowledges the use of the Analytical Instrumentation Facility (AIF) at North Carolina State University, which is supported by the State of North Carolina and the National Science Foundation. S. Mukherjee and M. Ghasemi from NCSU are acknowledged for providing comments about the manuscript.

Author information


  1. Institute of Materials for Electronics and Energy Technology (I-MEET), Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-Nuremberg, Martensstraße 7, 91058 Erlangen, Germany

    • Nicola Gasparini
    • , Thomas Heumueller
    • , Gebhard J. Matt
    • , Stefanie Fladischer
    • , Christoph J. Brabec
    •  & Tayebeh Ameri
  2. Department of Physics, North Carolina State University, 2401 Stinson Drive, Raleigh, North Carolina 27695, USA

    • Xuechen Jiao
    •  & Harald Ade
  3. Department of Chemistry and Centre for Plastic Electronics, Imperial College London, London SW7 2AZ, UK

    • Derya Baran
  4. Center for Nanoanalysis and Electron Microscopy (CENEM), Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-Nuremberg, Cauerstraße 6, 91058 Erlangen, Germany

    • Stefanie Fladischer
    •  & Erdmann Spiecker
  5. Bavarian Center for Applied Energy Research (ZAE Bayern), Haberstrasse 2a, 91058 Erlangen, Germany

    • Christoph J. Brabec


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N.G., T.A. and C.J.B. conceived and developed the ideas. N.G. designed the experiments and performed device fabrication, electrical characterization and data analysis. N.G. performed Photo-CELIV, TPV and CE measurements under the supervision of G.J.M.; X.J. performed GIWAXS, R-SoXS and SIMS measurements and analysed the data under the supervision of H.A.; S.F. performed TEM measurements under the supervision of E.S.; N.G. and X.J. wrote the manuscript and T.H., D.B., C.J.B., H.A. and T.A. contributed to revisions of the manuscript. The projects were supervised by T.A., C.J.B. and H.A.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Nicola Gasparini or Christoph J. Brabec or Tayebeh Ameri.

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    Supplementary Information

    Supplementary Figs 1–13, Supplementary Tables 1 and 2, and Supplementary Methods