Thermoplastic Elastomer Tunes Phase Structure and Promotes Stretchability of High-Efficiency Organic Solar Cells

Z. Peng, K. Xian, Y. Cui, Q. Qi, J. Liu, Y. Xu, Y. Chai, C. Yang, J. Hou, Y. Geng and L. Ye

Advanced Materials, Early View (2021)
Top-performance organic solar cells (OSCs) consisting of conjugated polymer donors and nonfullerene small molecule acceptors (NF-SMAs) deliver rapid increases in efficiencies. Nevertheless, many of the polymer donors exhibit high stiffness and small molecule acceptors are very brittle, which limit their applications in wearable devices. Here, a simple and effective strategy is reported to improve the stretchability and reduce the stiffness of high-efficiency polymer:NF-SMA blends and simultaneously maintain the high efficiency by incorporating a low-cost commercial thermoplastic elastomer, polystyrene-block-poly(ethylene-ran-butylene)-block-polystyrene (SEBS). The microstructure, mechanical properties, and photovoltaic performance of PM6:N3 with varied SEBS contents and the molecular weight dependence of SEBS on microstructure and mechanical properties are thoroughly characterized. This strategy for mechanical performance improvement exhibits excellent applicability in some other OSC blend systems, e.g., PBQx-TF:eC9-2Cl and PBDB-T:ITIC. More crucially, the elastic modulus of such complex ternary blends can be nicely predicted by a mechanical model. Therefore, incorporating thermoplastic elastomers is a widely applicable and cost-effective strategy to improve mechanical properties of nonfullerene OSCs and beyond.