Simple Synthesis of Electroactive Block Copolymers for Solar Cells

September 30, 2010 :: Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin-based DOE Energy Frontier Research Center for Understanding Charge Separation and Transfer at Interfaces in Energy Materials have developed a simple synthetic method to produce highly pure block copolymers that may find applications in organic photovoltaic (solar cell) devices. The block copolymers contain two types of monomers that are highly studied for solar cell applications -- poly(3-hexylthiophene) (P3HT), a donor, and poly(arylisocyanide), an acceptor. While several research groups have made donor/acceptor block copolymers, synthetic routes that afford the control of structure associated with conventional block copolymers were lacking for electroactive block copolymers. The EFRC research team, led by Dr. Christopher Bielawski, found that a reactive Ni(II) complex used to synthesize the P3HT can also effectively catalyze the growth of the isocyanide polymer directly from the P3HT. This substantially more efficient and practical synthetic method produces copolymers of high purity, pre-determined compositions, and tunable molecular weight, making the synthesized polymers particularly attractive for study in solar cells and other electronic applications. Details about this work can be found in a recently published communication in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

Electoactive block copolymer synthesis

Reference: Wu, Zong-Quan; Ono, Robert J.; Chen, Zheng; Bielawski, Christopher W., “Synthesis of Poly(3-alkylthiophene)-block-poly(arylisocyanide): Two Sequential, Mechanistically Distinct Polymerizations Using a Single Catalyst”, Journal of the American Chemical Society, Article ASAP (2010) [DOI:10.1021/ja106999qExternal link].
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