PerspectivePhysics

Exciton Quenching and Migration in Single Conjugated Polymers

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Science  04 Feb 2011:
Vol. 331, Issue 6017, pp. 544-545
DOI: 10.1126/science.1201660

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Summary

Plastic semiconductors, composed of conjugated organic molecules, have the potential to revolutionize the electronics industry with low-cost photovoltaic cells and high-contrast light-emitting displays. A major obstacle to the development of organic electronics is the lack of a predictive understanding of how energy and charge travel through organic solid-state materials, especially the amorphous conjugated polymers that are most amenable to low-cost “reel-to-reel” processing methods. Unraveling electronic energy transport is particularly important, as it is a limiting factor for the efficiency of low-cost organic solar cells. Electronic energy in conjugated molecules is contained in the form of an exciton, which consists of a negative charge (electron) and a positive charge (hole) that are tightly bound to form an electrically neutral quasi-particle. On page 565 of this issue, Bolinger et al. (1) reveal how excitons move through a conjugated polymer chain and how they interact with injected charges. Their conclusions, along with recent results from other groups, are overturning conventional wisdom about how molecular morphology influences electronic transport in this class of materials.