Mechanical Properties of Solution-Processed Small-Molecule Semiconductor Films

Daniel Rodriquez, Suchol Savagatrup, Eduardo Valle, Christopher M. Proctor, Caitlin McDowell, Guillermo C. Bazan, Thuc Quyen Nguyen, Darren J. Lipomi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Scopus citations


Advantages of semiconducting small molecules - as opposed to semiconducting polymers - include synthetic simplicity, monodispersity, low cost, and ease of purification. One purported disadvantage of small-molecule films is reduced mechanical robustness. This paper measures the tensile modulus and crack-onset strain for pure films of the high-performance solution-processable small-molecule donors 7,7′-[4,4-bis(2-ethylhexyl)-4H-silolo[3,2-b:4,5-b′]dithiophene-2,6-diyl]bis[6-fluoro-4-(5′-hexyl-[2,2′-bithiophen]-5-yl)benzo[c][1,2,5]thiadiazole] (DTS(FBTTh2)2), 2,5-di(2-ethylhexyl)-3,6-bis(5″-n-hexyl-[2,2′,5′,2″]terthiophen-5-yl)-pyrrolo[3,4-c]pyrrole-1,4-dione (SMDPPEH), and 6,13-bis(triisopropylsilylethynyl)pentacene (TIPS-pentacene), the acceptor 5,5′-(2,1,3-benzothiadiazole-4,7-diyldi-2,1-ethenediyl)bis[2-hexyl-1H-isoindole-1,3(2H)-dione] (HPI-BT), blends of DTS(FBTTh2)2 and SMDPPEH with [6,6]-phenyl C71 butyric acid methyl ester (PC71BM) and with HPI-BT, and bulk heterojunction films processed with the additives 1,8-diiodooctane (DIO) and polystyrene (PS). The most deformable films of solution-processed organic semiconductors are found to exhibit tensile moduli and crack-onset strains comparable to those measured for conjugated polymers. For example, the tensile modulus of as-cast DTS(FBTTh2)2 is 0.68 GPa (i.e., comparable to poly(3-hexylthiophene) (P3HT), the common polymer), while it exhibits no cracks when stretched on an elastomeric substrate to strains of 14%. While this high degree of stretchability is lost upon the addition of PC71BM (4.2 GPa, 1.42%), it can be partially recovered using processing additives. Tensile modulus and crack-onset strain are highly correlated, which is typical of van der Waals solids. Increased surface roughness was correlated to increased modulus and brittleness within films of similar composition. Decreased stiffness for soluble molecular semiconductors can be rationalized by the presence of alkyl side chains, which decrease the van der Waals attraction between molecules in the crystalline grains. These measurements and observations could have important consequences for the stability of devices based on molecular semiconductors, especially those destined for stretchable or ultraflexible applications, or those demanding mechanical robustness during roll-to-roll fabrication or use in the outdoor environment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11649-11657
Number of pages9
JournalACS Applied Materials and Interfaces
Issue number18
StatePublished - May 11 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • additives
  • mechanical properties
  • organic semiconductors
  • organic solar cells
  • small molecules
  • stretchable electronics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Materials Science


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