Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology Researchers Demonstrate Improved Performance of Transition Metal Oxide Based Organic Photovoltaics

They achieve this by removing residual organic metal-binding ligands from the transition metal oxide thin films, enhancing device stability and performance

Researchers from GIST report ACR as an effective way of removing unwanted ligands and improving the efficiency of organic photovoltaics (OPVs) with a transition metal oxide (TMO) interfacial layer.

Organic photovoltaics with a transition metal oxide (TMOs) interface layer are emerging as a promising alternative to conventional silicon-based photovoltaics. However, their electrical properties are often affected by unwanted organic metal-binding ligands left behind in the TMO synthesis process. Now, Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology researchers have addressed this issue using a technique called anion-induced catalytic reaction, which removes the residual ligands, resulting in a 20-fold enhancement in electrical conductivity.

Harnessing the power of the sun and converting it into electricity using photovoltaic solar cells is one of the top contenders for combating the current energy crisis. To this end, researchers have developed organic photovoltaics (OPVs) with transition metal oxide (TMO) thin-film interfacial layers as a cost-effective alternative to commercial silicon solar cells. OPVs are known for their excellent photochemical properties and low-cost mass producibility. However, the TMO layer often suffers from a degraded electrical conductivity owing to the presence of lingering organic metal-binding ligands generated during their synthesis. This greatly limits the OPVs from reaching their full potential.

A team of researchers led by Prof. Kwanghee Lee from Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology, Korea found a way to overcome this challenge. The team demonstrated a simple and effective way of eliminating the residual organic metal-binding ligands from molybdenum oxide (MoOx) precursor at room temperature using a technique called “anion-induced catalytic reaction” (ACR). This breakthrough was made available online on 25 June 2022 was published in Volume 32, Issue 35 of the journal Advanced Functional Materials on 25 August 2022.

When asked about the rationale behind the study, Prof. Lee says, “While OPVs with TMO thin films are headed towards power conversion efficiencies as high as 19%, the organic metal-binding ligands left behind the after sol-gel synthesis act like a double-edged sword, helping with the formation of the TMO thin films but deteriorating their properties as well. So, we aimed to find a way to eliminate the unwanted ligands after the synthesis process.

Accordingly, the team prepared a TMO thin film using an organic ligand-containing ionic compound and an MoOx-based precursor by introducing ACR alongside the hydrolysis and condensation steps that take place during the sol-gel method. X-ray analysis and density functional theory calculations revealed that ACR induced a strong electrostatic repulsion via low-level anions, which expedited the hydrolysis process and resulted in a quick removal of the organic-metal binding ligands at room temperature.

The team then prepared an inverted OPV configuration using the ACR-derived MoOx thin film to test its electrical properties. To their delight, they observed a 20-fold enhancement in the film’s electrical conductivity along with an excellent work function tunability compared to pristine MoOx. Further, the inverted OPV configuration showed 17.6% improved efficiency, with over 70% retention of the initial efficiency for up to 100 hours.

This novel strategy could not only ensure a superior light-to-electricity conversion efficiency required for commercialization but also enable energy-efficient mass production of next-generation OPV solar cells. “We strongly believe that the insights provided by our findings will open up new horizons in the production of large-area, wearable, flexible, and printable electronics,” concludes an optimistic Prof. Lee.

Reference

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1002/adfm.202204493

Title of original paper: Anion-Induced Catalytic Reaction in a Solution-Processed Molybdenum Oxide for Efficient Inverted Ternary Organic Photovoltaics

Journal: Advanced Functional Materials

Authors: Taeyoon Ki1,2, Changhoon Lee3, Jehan Kim4, In-Wook Hwang5, Chang-Mok Oh5, Kiyoung Park1,2, Sanseong Lee1,2, Ju-Hyeon Kim1,2, Chandran Balamurugan1,6, Jaemin Kong7, Hyeon-Seok Jeong7, Sooncheol Kwon*6,and Kwanghee Lee*1,2,7

Affiliations:

  1. Heeger Center for Advanced Materials (HCAM)

Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology

2. School of Materials Science and Engineering

Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology

3. Max Planck POSTECH Center for Complex Phase of Materials

Pohang University of Science and Technology

4. Pohang Accelerator Laboratory (PAL)

Pohang University of Science and Technology

5. Advanced Photonics Research Institute (APRI)

Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology

6. Department of Energy and Materials Engineering

Dongguk University-Seoul

7. Research Institute for Solar and Sustainable Energies (RISE)

Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology

*Corresponding author’s email: klee@gist.ac.kr

About the Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology (GIST)
The Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology (GIST) is a research-oriented university situated in Gwangju, South Korea. Founded in 1993, GIST has become one of the most prestigious schools in South Korea. The university aims to create a strong research environment to spur advancements in science and technology and to promote collaboration between international and domestic research programs. With its motto of “A Proud Creator of Future Science and Technology,” GIST has consistently received one of the highest university rankings in Korea.

Website: http://www.gist.ac.kr/

About the author
Kwanghee Lee is a Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology (GIST), Korea and the director of Research Institute for Solar and Sustainable Energies (RISE) at GIST. He received his Ph.D. in physics in 1995 and completed his postdoctoral training at the Institute for Polymers and Organic Solids from UC Santa Barbara in USA in 1997. Prof. Lee’s group is currently working on printing electronics using metallic and semiconducting polymers. Additionally, his research focuses on the development of organic and perovskite solar cells with the highest efficiency. Prof. Lee was awarded the Order of Science and Technology Merit of the Republic of Korea in 2022 for his contributions to science.

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Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology (GIST)

GIST is a research-oriented university & a prestigious school in science and technology, located at Gwangju, South Korea. Visit: https://www.gist.ac.kr/en/