Oleamide as a self-assembled cathode buffer layer for polymer solar cells: The role of the terminal group on the function of the surfactant

Wenfeng Zhang, Haitao Wang, Boxue Chen, Xianghong Bi, Swaminathan Venkatesan, Qiquan Qiao, Shangfeng Yang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


An amphiphilic surfactant oleamide was incorporated into P3HT:PCBM bulk heterojunction polymer solar cells (BHJ-PSCs) as a novel cathode buffer layer (CBL) for the first time by doping in the P3HT:PCBM photoactive layer followed by self-assembly. The power conversion efficiency (PCE) of the annealed P3HT:PCBM/oleamide BHJ-PSC device is enhanced by ∼28% at the optimum oleamide doping ratio of 2.5%, which is primarily due to the increase of fill factor (FF) by ∼22%. The surface morphologies of the oleamide-incorporated P3HT:PCBM photoactive films were studied by transmission electron microscopy (TEM), atomic force microscopy (AFM), and scanning Kelvin probe microscopy (SKPM), revealing that oleamide molecules initially doped in the P3HT:PCBM layer may undergo self-assembly and migrate to the top surface of the P3HT:PCBM layer, leading to the formation of a cathode buffer layer (CBL) as an interfacial dipole layer between the photoactive layer and Al cathode electrode. Such an oleamide interfacial dipole layer lowers the work function of Al, thus the energy level offset between the work function of Al and the LUMO level of the PCBM acceptor is decreased, facilitating the electron extraction by the Al cathode. Furthermore, we found that the crystallinity of P3HT upon the incorporation of oleamide was almost unchanged according to X-ray diffraction (XRD) characterization. It is noteworthy that, this phenomenon is completely different from the case of the previously reported analogous surfactant oleic acid, which was doped in the P3HT:PCBM photoactive layer and led to the efficiency enhancement as well due to the increased crystallinity of P3HT, suggesting the strong influence of the terminal group of the surfactant on its function in P3HT:PCBM BHJ-PSC devices.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)24067-24074
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Materials Chemistry
Issue number45
StatePublished - Dec 7 2012
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • Materials Chemistry


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