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Proceedings Paper

Mechanical properties of organic semiconductors for mechanically stable and intrinsically stretchable solar cells (Conference Presentation)
Author(s): Darren J Lipomi

Paper Abstract

This presentation describes my group’s efforts to understand the molecular and microstructural basis for the mechanical properties of organic semiconductors for organic photovoltaic (OPV) devices. Our work is motivated by two goals. The first goal is to mitigate mechanical forms of degradation of printed modules during roll-to-roll fabrication, installation, and environmental forces—i.e., wind, rain, snow, and thermal expansion and contraction. Mechanical stability is a prerequisite for inexpensive processing on flexible substrates: to encapsulate devices in glass is to surrender this advantage. The second goal is to enable the next generation of ultra-flexible and stretchable solar cells for collapsible, portable, and wearable applications, and as low-cost sources of energy—“solar tarps”—for disaster relief and for the developing world. It may seem that organic semiconductors, due to their carbon framework, are already sufficiently compliant for these applications. We have found, however, that the mechanical properties (stiffness and brittleness) occupy a wide range of values, and can be difficult to predict from molecular structure alone. We are developing an experimental and theoretical framework for how one can combine favorable charge-transport properties and mechanical compliance in organic semiconductor films. In particular, we have explored the roles of the backbone, alkyl side chain, microstructural order, the glass transition, molecular packing with fullerenes, plasticizing effects of additives, extent of separation of [60]PCBM and [70]PCBM, structural randomness in low-bandgap polymers, and reinforcement by encapsulation, on the mechanical compliance. We are exploring the applicability of semi-empirical “back-of-the-envelope” models, along with multi-scale molecular dynamics simulations, with the ultimate goal of designing electroactive organic materials whose mechanical properties can be dialed-in. We have used the insights we have developed to demonstrate several new applications for OPV that demand extreme compliance, including biaxial stretching and conformal bonding of whole devices to hemispheres, and devices with ultrathin encapsulation mounted on human skin that survive significant cyclic mechanical deformation in the outdoor environment.

Paper Details

Date Published: 2 November 2016
PDF: 1 pages
Proc. SPIE 9942, Organic Photovoltaics XVII, 994206 (2 November 2016); doi: 10.1117/12.2240031
Show Author Affiliations
Darren J Lipomi, Univ. of California San Diego (United States)

Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 9942:
Organic Photovoltaics XVII
Zakya H. Kafafi; Paul A. Lane; Ifor D. W. Samuel, Editor(s)

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