We show by in situ microscopy that the effects of electron beam irradiation during transmission electron microscopy can be used to lock microstructural features and enhance the structural thermal stability of a nanostructured polymer:fullerene blend. Polymer:fullerene bulk-heterojunction thin films show great promise for use as active layers in organic solar cells but their low thermal stability is a hindrance. Lack of thermal stability complicates manufacturing and influences the lifetime of devices. To investigate how electron irradiation affects the thermal stability of polymer:fullerene films, a model bulk-heterojunction film based on a thiophene-quinoxaline copolymer and a fullerene derivative was heat-treated in-situ in a transmission electron microscope. In areas of the film that exposed to the electron beam the nanostructure of the film remained stable, while the nanostructure in areas not exposed to the electron beam underwent large phase separation and nucleation of fullerene crystals. UV–vis spectroscopy shows that the polymer:fullerene films are stable for electron doses up to 2000 kGy.
- Electron irradiation
- In-situ transmission electron microscopy
- Organic solar cells
- Thermal stability