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Efficient organic solar cells processed from hydrocarbon solvents


Organic solar cells have desirable properties, including low cost of materials, high-throughput roll-to-roll production, mechanical flexibility and light weight. However, all top-performance devices are at present processed using halogenated solvents, which are environmentally hazardous and would thus require expensive mitigation to contain the hazards. Attempts to process organic solar cells from non-halogenated solvents lead to inferior performance. Overcoming this hurdle, here we present a hydrocarbon-based processing system that is not only more environmentally friendly but also yields cells with power conversion efficiencies of up to 11.7%. Our processing system incorporates the synergistic effects of a hydrocarbon solvent, a novel additive, a suitable choice of polymer side chain, and strong temperature-dependent aggregation of the donor polymer. Our results not only demonstrate a method of producing active layers of organic solar cells in an environmentally friendly way, but also provide important scientific insights that will facilitate further improvement of the morphology and performance of organic solar cells.

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Figure 1: Chemical structures and characterizations.
Figure 2: Characterization of PffBT4T-C9C13:PC71BM processed from CB–DIO and TMB–PN.
Figure 3: The influence of alkyl chain lengths on polymer texture.


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The work was partially supported by the National Basic Research Program of China (973 Program; 2013CB834705), HK JEBN Limited (Hong Kong), the Hong Kong Research Grants Council (T23–407/13-N, N_HKUST623/13, and 606012), HKUST President’s Office through SSTSP scheme (project ref number: EP201) and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC, #21374090, 21504066, 21534003 and 51320105014). We thank Enli Technology Co., Ltd (Taiwan) for carrying out EQE measurements and Raynergy Tek Incorporation (Taiwan) for providing building blocks. H.A. is supported by ONR grants N000141410531 and N00141512322. X-ray data was acquired at beamlines and 7.3.3 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.

Author information




J.Z. selected the solvent/additive and synthesized PffBT4T-C9C13; Y.L. fabricated and optimized the devices; Y.L. prepared the devices for certification and samples for X-ray characterization; W.M. collected the X-ray data; G.Y. analysed the X-ray data supervised by W.M.; K.J. fabricated and optimized the devices based on PTB7 and PffBT4T-C8C12; H.L. synthesized PffT2-FTAZ-C10C14; J.Z., H.Y., W.M. and H.A. integrated the interpretation and drafted the paper; H.Y. conceived and directed the project; all authors commented on the final paper.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Wei Ma or He Yan.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Tables 1-5, Supplementary Figures 1-42, Supplementary Note, Supplementary Methods, Supplementary References. (PDF 3280 kb)

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Zhao, J., Li, Y., Yang, G. et al. Efficient organic solar cells processed from hydrocarbon solvents. Nat Energy 1, 15027 (2016).

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