Synthesis and Nanoarchitectonics of Novel Squaraine Derivatives for Organic Photovoltaic Devices

Nanomaterials (Basel). 2022 Apr 4;12(7):1206. doi: 10.3390/nano12071206.


Necessary advancements in the area of organic photovoltaic (OPV) devices include the upgrade of power conversion efficiencies (PCE) and stability. One answer to these demands lies in the research into new absorbers. Here, we focus on the development of new small molecule absorbers from the group of squaraines (SQs). These modular absorbers can be applied as donors in organic solar cells and have the ability to utilize a broad range of solar radiation if blended with suitable acceptors. In order to allow for the compatibility and favorable organization of donor and acceptor in the absorber layer, we intend to optimize the structure of the SQ by varying the groups attached to the squaric acid core. For that purpose, we accordingly developed a well-suited synthesis route. The novel alkyl- and benzyl-substituted aryl aminosquaraines were synthesized through an improved and eco-friendly procedure. Special emphasis was placed on optimizing the amination reaction to obtain initial precursors in the synthesis of squaraine, avoiding hitherto common catalytic processes. All SQ precursors and SQ products were completely described. The derived SQs were additionally characterized in thin-film configuration using cyclic voltammetry and UV-VIS spectroscopy and then processed to prepare self-standing bulk heterojunction (BHJ) thin films in conjunction with fullerene-based electron acceptors, which were characterized via profilometry. The comparison between SQ and BHJ solutions and thin films, using atomic force microscopy and UV-VIS spectroscopy, revealed differences in susceptibility for the organization and orientation of the constituting domains.

Keywords: alkyl/aryl aminosquaraine; amination synthesis; bulk heterojunction; hybrid–organic photovoltaics; squaraines.