Date of Award

Summer 2011

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Electrical/Computer Engineering

Committee Director

Gon Namkoong

Committee Member

Helmut Baumbart

Committee Member

Sylvain Marsillac


Polymer-fullerene bulk heterojunction solar cells have been a rapidly improving technology over the past decade. To further improve the relatively low energy conversion efficiencies of these solar cells, several modifications need to be made to the overall device structure. Emerging technologies include cells that are fabricated with interfacial layers to facilitate charge transport, and tandem structures are being introduced to harness the absorption spectrum of polymers with varying bandgap energies.

When new structures are implemented, each layer of the cell must be optimized in order for the entire device to function efficiently. The most volatile layer of these devices is the photoactive layer solution of poly-3(hexylthiophene-2,5-diyl) (P3HT) and [6,6]-phenyl-C61-butyric acid methyl ester (PC 61BM). Even slight variations in pre-application and post-treatment will lead to large variations in the electrical, physical, and optical properties of the solar cell module.

To improve the effectiveness of the photoactive layer, the material concentration of P3HT and PC61BM in the liquid phase, prior to application, was altered. The weight ratio of P3HT to PC61BM was kept at a constant 1 to 0.8, while the amounts of each dissolved in 2 mL of chlorobenzene were varied. Solar cells were fabricated, and J-V characterizations were performed to determine the electrical traits of the devices. Atomic force microscopy (AFM) measurements were done on the photoactive layer films to determine the physical characteristics of the films such as overall surface topology and RMS roughness. Also, variable angle spectroscopic ellipsometry (VASE) was used to determine film thickness and extinction coefficient of the active layers. To further understand the optical properties of the polymer-fullerene blend, the absorption spectrum of the films were calculated through UV-VIS spectrophotometry.

It was found that an increased concentration of the polymer-fullerene blend prior to application increased overall device efficiency. A photoactive layer solution prepared with 30 mg P3HT and 24 mg PC61BM, when implemented in an organic solar cell, produced the optimal electrical, physical, and optical characteristics.