Oxide contacts in organic photovoltaics: Characterization and control of near-surface composition in indium-tin oxide (ITO) electrodes

Neal R. Armstrong, P. Alex Veneman, Erin Ratcliff, Diogenes Placencia, Michael Brumbach

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

167 Scopus citations


(Figure presented) The recent improvements in the power conversion efficiencies of organic photovoltaic devices (OPVs) promise to make these technologies increasingly attractive alternatives to more established photovoltaic technologies. OPVs typically consist of photoactive layers 20-100 nm thick sandwiched between both transparent oxide and metallic electrical contacts. Ideal OPVs rely on ohmic top and bottom contacts to harvest photogenerated charges without compromising the power conversion efficiency of the OPV. Unfortunately, the electrical contact materials (metals and metal oxides) and the active organic layers in OPVs are often incompatible and may be poorly optimized for harvesting photogenerated charges. Therefore, further optimization of the chemical and physical stabilities of these metal oxide materials with organic materials will be an essential component of the development of OPV technologies. The energetic and kinetic barriers to charge injection/collection must be minimized to maximize OPV power conversion efficiencies. In this Account, we review recent studies of one of the most common transparent conducting oxides (TCOs), indium-tin oxide (ITO), which is the transparent bottom contact in many OPV technologies. These studies of the surface chemistry and surface modification of ITO are also applicable to other TCO materials. Clean, freshly deposited ITO is intrinsically reactive toward H2O, CO, CO2, etc. and is often chemically and electrically heterogeneous in the near-surface region. Conductive-tip atomic force microscopy (C-AFM) studies reveal significant spatial variability in electrical properties. We describe the use of acid activation, small-molecule chemisorption, and electrodeposition of conducting polymer films to tune the surface free energy, the effective work function, and electrochemical reactivity of ITO surfaces. Certain electrodeposited poly(thiophenes) show their own photovoltaic activity or can be used as electronically tunable substrates for other photoactive layers. For certain photoactive donor layers (phthalocyanines), we have used the polarity of the oxide surface to accelerate dewetting and "nanotexturing" of the donor layer to enhance OPV performance. These complex surface chemistries will make oxide/organic interfaces one of the key focal points for research in new OPV technologies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1748-1757
Number of pages10
JournalAccounts of Chemical Research
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 17 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)


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