Revealing temperature-dependent polymer aggregation in solution with small-angle X-ray scattering

Maged Abdelsamie, Thomas P. Chaney, Hongping Yan, Sebastian A. Schneider, I. Alperen Ayhan, Enrique D. Gomez, John R. Reynolds, Michael F. Toney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Improving the morphology of bulk heterojunction active layers remains a primary challenge for organic photovoltaics (OPVs), and much research has been devoted to achieving this through modifying OPV casting solutions to control film formation and crystallinity. Yet, the solution conformation of conjugated polymers used in OPVs is largely unknown. Here, we report observations of temperature dependent aggregation (TDA) through small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS) investigations of polymer conformation in chlorobenzene : dichlorobenzene casting solvent as a function of temperature for PffBT4T-2OD, a polymer known to display TDA, and its derivative PffBT3T-2OD which displays significantly reduced TDA. We find that, upon cooling below 80 °C, PffBT4T-2OD forms large crystalline aggregates in solution, while its derivative PffBT3T-2OD forms mostly amorphous aggregates of similar size with some evidence of short-range order. This change in solution aggregation behavior is reflected in the lack of gelation by PffBT3T-2OD upon film deposition by spin coating. Grazing-incidence wide-angle X-ray scattering (GIWAXS) revealed a preferred face-on π-π stacking orientation for PffBT3T-2OD films while PffBT4T-2OD's π-π stacking peak was isotropic. We combine these findings to suggest that the presence of crystalline seed aggregates in PffBT4T-2OD solution quickly form an isotropic crystallite network upon cooling while PffBT3T-2OD's amorphous aggregates more slowly crystallize resulting in improved processability of PffBT3T-2OD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2096-2104
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Materials Chemistry A
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 28 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Chemistry
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • General Materials Science


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