Enhanced Lifetime of Polymer Solar Cells by Surface Passivation of Metal Oxide Buffer Layers

Swaminathan Venkatesan, Evan Ngo, Devendra Khatiwada, Cheng Zhang, Qiquan Qiao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

62 Scopus citations


The role of electron selective interfaces on the performance and lifetime of polymer solar cells were compared and analyzed. Bilayer interfaces consisting of metal oxide films with cationic polymer modification namely poly ethylenimine ethoxylated (PEIE) were found to enhance device lifetime compared to bare metal oxide films when used as an electron selective cathode interface. Devices utilizing surface-modified metal oxide layers showed enhanced lifetimes, retaining up to 85% of their original efficiency when stored in ambient atmosphere for 180 days without any encapsulation. The work function and surface potential of zinc oxide (ZnO) and ZnO/PEIE interlayers were evaluated using Kelvin probe and Kelvin probe force microscopy (KPFM) respectively. Kelvin probe measurements showed a smaller reduction in work function of ZnO/PEIE films compared to bare ZnO films when aged in atmospheric conditions. KPFM measurements showed that the surface potential of the ZnO surface drastically reduces when stored in ambient air for 7 days because of surface oxidation. Surface oxidation of the interface led to a substantial decrease in the performance in aged devices. The enhancement in the lifetime of devices with a bilayer interface was correlated to the suppressed surface oxidation of the metal oxide layers. The PEIE passivated surface retained a lower Fermi level when aged, which led to lower trap-assisted recombination at the polymer-cathode interface. Further photocharge extraction by linearly increasing voltage (Photo-CELIV) measurements were performed on fresh and aged samples to evaluate the field required to extract maximum charges. Fresh devices with a bare ZnO cathode interlayer required a lower field than devices with ZnO/PEIE cathode interface. However, aged devices with ZnO required a much higher field to extract charges while aged devices with ZnO/PEIE showed a minor increase compared to the fresh devices. Results indicate that surface modification can act as a suitable passivation layer to suppress oxidation in metal oxide thin films for enhanced lifetime in inverted organic solar cells. (Graph Presented).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)16093-16100
Number of pages8
JournalACS Applied Materials and Interfaces
Issue number29
StatePublished - Jul 29 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • and buffer layer
  • metal oxide
  • polymer solar cells
  • surface passivation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Materials Science


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