Long-lived photoinduced polaron formation in conjugated polyelectrolyte-fullerene assemblies

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Science  19 Jun 2015:
Vol. 348, Issue 6241, pp. 1340-1343
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa6850

Photoinduction of long-lived polarons

Photosynthetic complexes and organic photovoltaics can rapidly create separated charges upon photoexcitation. However, unproductive charge recombination often occurs in the human-made system. This is in part because the charge acceptor and donor structures are much larger. Huber et al. created aqueous micelles that pair conjugated polyelectrolyte charge donors with fullerene acceptors at a much smaller interface. They observed the photoinduced formation of polarons—stable pairs of separated charges—with lifetimes of several days.

Science, this issue p. 1340


The efficiency of biological photosynthesis results from the exquisite organization of photoactive elements that promote rapid movement of charge carriers out of a critical recombination range. If synthetic organic photovoltaic materials could mimic this assembly, charge separation and collection could be markedly enhanced. We show that micelle-forming cationic semiconducting polymers can coassemble in water with cationic fullerene derivatives to create photoinduced electron-transfer cascades that lead to exceptionally long-lived polarons. The stability of the polarons depends on the organization of the polymer-fullerene assembly. Properly designed assemblies can produce separated polaronic charges that are stable for days or weeks in aqueous solution.

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