Solution-processed annealing-free ZnO nanoparticles for stable inverted organic solar cells

S. Alem, J. Lu (Corresponding Author), R. Movileanu, Terho Kololuoma, A. Dadvand, Y. Tao (Corresponding Author)

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

    27 Citations (Scopus)


    We report the development and application of high-quality zinc oxide nanoparticles (ZnO NPs) processed in air for stable inverted bulk heterojunction solar cells as an electron extraction layer (EEL). The ZnO NPs (average size ~11 nm) were dispersed in chloroform and stabilized by propylamine (PA). We demonstrated that the ZnO NP dispersion with 4 vol.% of PA as stabilizer can be used in air directly and remains clear up to one month after preparation. Our inverted solar cells consisted of a blade-coated poly(N-9'-heptadecanyl-2, 7-carbazole-alt-5,5-(4',7'-di-2-thienyl-2',1', 3'-benzothiadiazole (PCDTBT) and [6,6]-phenyl C71-butyric acid methyl ester (PC71BM) (1: 4 by weight) active layer sandwiched between a ZnO electron extraction layer and a MoO3/Ag anode. All solar cells with ZnO films fabricated in air using PA-stabilized ZnO dispersions prepared within a time window of one month exhibited power conversion efficiencies (PCE) above 4%. In contrast, if the ZnO film was prepared in air using regular un-stabilized ZnO NP dispersion, the PCE would drop to 0.2% due to poor film quality. More interestingly, X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy and nuclear magnetic resonance measurements indicated that the PA ligands were not covalently bonded to ZnO NPs and did not exist in the deposited ZnO films. The spin-cast ZnO thin films (without any thermal treatment) are insoluble in organic solvents and can be directly used as an EEL in solar cells. This feature is beneficial for fabricating organic solar cells on flexible polymer substrates. More importantly, our non-encapsulated inverted solar cells are highly stable with their PCEs remaining unchanged after being stored in air for 50 days.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1035-1042
    Number of pages7
    JournalOrganic Electronics
    Issue number5
    Publication statusPublished - 2014
    MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


    • Bulk heterojunction
    • inverted solar cell
    • propylamine
    • stability
    • zinc oxide nanoparticles


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