Publication Date

Spring 2016

Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Dr Hemali Rathnayake (Director), Dr Stuart Burris and Dr Bangbo Yan

Degree Program

Department of Chemistry

Degree Type

Master of Science


Active layer morphology of polymer-based solar cells plays an important role in improving power conversion efficiency (PCE). In this thesis, the focus is to improve the device efficiency of polymer-based solar cells. In the first objective, active layer morphology of polymer-solar cells was optimized though a novel solvent annealing technique. The second objective was to explore the possibility of replacing the highly sensitive aluminum cathode layer with a low-cost and stable alternative, copper metal. Large scale manufacturing of these solar cells is also explored using roll-to-roll printing techniques.

Poly (3-hexylthiophene) (P3HT) and phenyl-C61-butyric acid methyl (PCBM) were used as the active layer blend for fabricating the solar cell devices using bulk heterojunction (BHJ), which is a blend of a donor polymer and an acceptor material. Blends of the donor polymer, P3HT and acceptor, PCBM were cast using spin coating and the resulting active layers were solvent annealed with dichlorobenzene in an inert atmosphere. Solvent annealed devices showed improved morphology with nano-phase segregation revealed by atomic force microscopy (AFM) analysis. The roughness of the active layer was found to be 6.5 nm. The nano-phase segregation was attributed to PCBM clusters and P3HT domains being arranged under the solvent annealing conditions. These test devices showed PCE up to 9.2 % with current density of 32.32 mA/cm2, which is the highest PCE reported to date for a P3HT-PCBM based system.

Copper was deposited instead of the traditional aluminum for device fabrication. We were able to achieve similar PCEs with copper-based devices. Conductivity measurements were done on thermally deposited copper films using the two-probe method. Further, for these two configurations, PCE and other photovoltaic parameters were compared.

Finally, we studied new techniques of large scale fabrication such as ultrasonic spray coating, screen-printing, and intense pulse light sintering, using the facilities at the Conn Center for Renewable Energy Research at the University of Louisville. In this study, prototype devices were fabricated on flexible ITO coated plastics. Sintering greatly improved the conductivity of the copper nano-ink cathode layer. We will explore this technique’s application to large-scale fabrication of solar cell devices in the future work.


Materials Chemistry | Physical Chemistry