Functionalization of Benzotriazole-Based Conjugated Polymers for Solar Cells: Heteroatom vs Substituents

Abstract

With the recent remarkable advances in the efficiency of organic solar cells, the need to distill key structure–property relationships for semiconducting materials cannot be understated. The fundamental design criteria based on these structure–property relationships will help realize low-cost, scalable, and high-efficiency materials. In this study, we systematically explore the impact of a variety of functional groups, including nitrogen heteroatoms, fluorine substituents, and cyano groups, on benzotriazole (TAZ)-based acceptor moieties that are incorporated into the conjugated polymers. Specifically, a pyridine heterocycle was used to replace the benzene unit of TAZ, leading to the PyTAZ polymer, and a cyano substituent was added to the benzene of the TAZ unit, resulting in the CNTAZ polymer. The PyTAZ polymer suffers from low mobility and poor exciton harvesting, driven by large and excessively pure domains when blended with PCBM. The inclusion of fluorine substituents, placed strategically along the polymer backbone, can mitigate these issues, as shown with 4FT–PyTAZ. However, when this same approach is used for the cyano-functionalized polymer (CNTAZ), the resulting polymer (4FT–CNTAZ) is overfunctionalized and suffers from impure domains and recombination issues. The cyano group has a larger impact on the TAZ core compared to the nitrogen heteroatom due to the strong electron-withdrawing strength of the cyano group. Because of this, further functionalization of the cyano-based polymers has less fruitful impact on the polymer properties and results in deterioration of the solar cell efficiency. Overall, this work highlights some of the benefits, thresholds, and limitations for functionalization of conjugated polymers for organic solar cells.

Citation

Functionalization of Benzotriazole-Based Conjugated Polymers for Solar Cells: Heteroatom vs Substituents
Jeromy James Rech, Liang Yan, Zhen Wang, Qianqian Zhang, Spencer Bradshaw, Harald Ade, and Wei You
ACS Applied Polymer Materials 2021 3 (1), 30-41
DOI: 10.1021/acsapm.0c00761