On the molecular origin of charge separation at the donor-acceptor interface

Gjergji Sini, Marcel Schubert, Chad Risko, Steffen Roland, Olivia Lee, Zhihua Chen, Thomas Richter, Daniel Dolfen, Veaceslav Coropceanu, Sabine Ludwigs, Ullrich Scherf, Antonio Facchetti, Jean Fréchet, Dieter Neher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Citations (Scopus)


Fullerene-based acceptors have dominated organic solar cells for almost two decades. It is only within the last few years that alternative acceptors rival their dominance, introducing much more flexibility in the optoelectronic properties of these material blends. However, a fundamental physical understanding of the processes that drive charge separation at organic heterojunctions is still missing but urgently needed to direct further material improvements. Here we use a combined experimental and theoretical approach to understand the intimate mechanisms by which molecular structure contributes to exciton dissociation, charge separation, and charge recombination at the donor-acceptor (D-A) interface. We use model systems comprised of polythiophene-based donor and rylene diimide-based acceptor polymers and perform a detailed density functional theory (DFT) investigation. The results point to the roles that geometric deformations and direct-contact intermolecular polarization play in establishing a driving force (energy gradient) for the optoelectronic processes taking place at the interface. A substantial impact for this driving force is found to stem from polymer deformations at the interface, a finding that can clearly lead to new design approaches in the development of the next generation of conjugated polymers and small molecules.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1702232
JournalAdvanced Energy Materials
Issue number12
Early online date22 Jan 2018
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2018


  • Polymer solar cells
  • Organic photovoltaics
  • Photocurrent generation
  • Donor-acceptor interfaces
  • Nonfullerene acceptors
  • Energy gradients
  • Driving force
  • Polarization
  • Geometrical deformations


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