On the origin of the open-circuit voltage of polymer-fullerene solar cells

Nat Mater. 2009 Nov;8(11):904-9. doi: 10.1038/nmat2548. Epub 2009 Oct 11.


The increasing amount of research on solution-processable, organic donor-acceptor bulk heterojunction photovoltaic systems, based on blends of conjugated polymers and fullerenes has resulted in devices with an overall power-conversion efficiency of 6%. For the best devices, absorbed photon-to-electron quantum efficiencies approaching 100% have been shown. Besides the produced current, the overall efficiency depends critically on the generated photovoltage. Therefore, understanding and optimization of the open-circuit voltage (Voc) of organic solar cells is of high importance. Here, we demonstrate that charge-transfer absorption and emission are shown to be related to each other and Voc in accordance with the assumptions of the detailed balance and quasi-equilibrium theory. We underline the importance of the weak ground-state interaction between the polymer and the fullerene and we confirm that Voc is determined by the formation of these states. Our work further suggests alternative pathways to improve Voc of donor-acceptor devices.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Electrochemistry
  • Fullerenes / chemistry*
  • Organic Chemicals / chemistry
  • Photochemistry
  • Polymers / chemistry*
  • Surface Properties


  • Fullerenes
  • Organic Chemicals
  • Polymers