Enhancing energy transport in conjugated polymers

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Science  25 May 2018:
Vol. 360, Issue 6391, pp. 854-855
DOI: 10.1126/science.aat6009

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The conversion of light into usable chemical energy by plants is enabled by the precise spatial arrangement of light-absorbing photosynthetic systems and associated molecular complexes (1). In organic solar cells, there is also the need to control intermolecular spacing and molecular orientation, as well as thin-film crystallinity and morphology, so as to enable efficient energy migration and photoconversion (2). In an organic solar cell, light absorption creates excitons, tightly bound electron-hole pairs that must be efficiently dissociated into their component charge carriers in order to create an electrical current. Thus, long-range exciton migration must occur from the point of photogeneration to a dissociating site. On page 897 of this issue, Jin et al. (3) report on a conjugated polymer nanofiber system that yields exciton diffusion lengths greater than 200 nm. In comparison, organic solar cells are typically constructed with materials having exciton diffusion lengths one order of magnitude smaller than this value, which limits device thickness and optical absorption. Their approach exploits a sequential synthesis method that enables measurement of this long exciton diffusion length (see the figure).