Addition of P3HT-grafted Silica nanoparticles improves bulkheterojunction morphology in P3HT-PCBM blends

M Garg and V Padmanabhan, SCIENTIFIC REPORTS, 6, 33219 (2016).

DOI: 10.1038/srep33219

We present molecular dynamics simulations of a ternary blend of P3HT, PCBM and P3HT-grafted silica nanoparticles (SiNP) for applications in polymer-based solar cells. Using coarse-grained models, we study the effect of SiNP on the spatial arrangement of PCBM in P3HT. Our results suggest that addition of SiNP not only alters the morphology of PCBM clusters but also improves the crystallinity of P3HT. We exploit the property of grafted SiNP to self-assemble into a variety of anisotropic structures and the tendency of PCBM to preferentially adhere to SiNP surface, due to favorable interactions, to achieve morphologies with desirable characteristics for the active layer, including domain size, crystallinity of P3HT, and elimination of isolated islands of PCBM. As the concentration of SiNP increases, the number of isolated PCBM molecules decreases, which in turn improves the crystallinity of P3HT domains. We also observe that by tuning the grafting parameters of SiNP, it is possible to achieve structures ranging from cylindrical to sheets to highly interconnected network of strings. The changes brought about by addition of SiNP shows a promising potential to improve the performance of these materials when used as active layers in organic photovoltaics.

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