McGehee GroupStanford University | Stanford Materials Science & Engineering | Center for Advanced Molecular Photovoltaics (CAMP)
Professor McGehee's primary interests and areas of expertise are
organic electronics, patterning materials at the nanometer length
scale and developing materials for renewable energy and
sustainability applications. His research group's projects are
briefly described here and thoroughly described in our
publications, which are listed elsewhere on this website.
Structure-Property Relationships in Semiconducting Polymers
We use techniques such as x-ray diffraction, spectroscopy, and atomic force microscopy to determine how molecules pack in polymer solar cells and how the packing affects properties such as exciton diffusion, electron transfer and charge transport. Several years ago we discovered that the molecular weight of a polymer is one of the most important factors that determines its charge carrier mobility (Macromolecules, 38 (2005) 3312). We showed that the size of the molecules affects the rate at which crystals form and that this determines whether crystals nucleate off the substrate or in the bulk of the film. When crystals nucleate off the substrate, they tend to be well aligned. Consequently the insulating sidechains do not impede charge transport between neighboring crystals. In 2008 we discovered that one of the most important properties of a semiconducting polymer for photovoltaic applications is the amount of space that is available between the sidechains. We found that the fullerene derivatives that are commonly used to make bulk heterojunction solar cells can often intercalate between the sidechains (Advanced Functional Materials, 19 (2009) 1173). When this happens, exciton splitting is extremely efficient because the polymer and fullerene are not phase separated. On the other hand, we believe that recombination is faster since the polymer and fullerene are mixed at the molecular scale. We find that when intercalation occurs, one must use substantially more fullerene to optimize the performance of the blend so that there is enough fullerene to fill the spaces between the polymer sidechains and create a pure fullerene phase that can transport electrons.
Our x-ray diffraction measurements are performed in collaboration with
Michael Toney (SSRL). The molecules we investigate are usually made by the
research groups of Jean Frechet (Berkeley), Zhenan Bao (Stanford), Alan
Sellinger (Stanford), Iain McCulloch (Imperial), and Martin Heeney (Queen
Solar Cell Device Physics
Polymer based organic solar cells have been continuously improving in performance over the last 15 years most recently achieving power conversion efficiencies of over 6%. To reach efficiencies of 10% and beyond will require not only the development of new polymers and acceptor materials but also the establishment of effective screening procedures, and the prioritization of characterization techniques to enable a targeted approach to optimizing and improving devices. We are working closely with synthetic chemists in the Bao and Sellinger groups to speed up the evaluation feedback cycle of the new polymers and accepter molecules that they are developing.
Dye Sensitized Solar Cells and Organic-Inorganic Hybrid Solar Cells
Dye-sensitized solar cells (DSCs) have excellent charge collection efficiencies, high open circuit voltages (800-850mV), and good fill factors (0.70-0.75). However, DSCs do not completely absorb all of the photons from the visible and near infrared domain and consequently have lower short circuit photocurrent densities (<21 mA/cm2) compared to inorganic photovoltaic devices.
We are currently developing new near-infrared sensitizing dyes necessary to increase the short-circuit photocurrent density with Zhenan Bao (Stanford) and Jean Frechet (UC-Berkeley). We have also recently begun studying the structure/electronic property relationships of hole conductors in solid-state DSC to improve efficiency and have begun making tandem devices with Peter Peumans at Stanford. We have a strong DSC collaboration with Prof. Michael Graetzel at Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne through the Center for Advanced Molecular Photovoltaics.
DSC schematic representation of a dye-sensitized solar cell with energy relay dyes. The right side of the figure shows the typical absorption process for lower energy (red) photons in DSCs: light is absorbed by the sensitizing dye (1), transferring an electron into the titania and a hole is transported to the back contact through the electrolyte. The energy relay dye process is similar except that, higher energy (blue) photons are first absorbed by the energy relay dye that undergoes Förster energy transfer (2) to the sensitizing dye.
Reliability and Lifetime Program
Stanford is currently studying the lifetime and reliability of bulk heterojunction solar cells based on high efficiency polymers. These systems have reported efficiencies of over 6%. The studies have shown major differences in degradation patters and lifetimes pointing to different mechanisms behind the degradation patterns for each type of polymer. The studies must be statistically relevant and thus large numbers of device must be tested simultaneously. We have built a set-up that can measure 64 solar cells while controlling and monitoring their temperature and light intensity. Each solar cell is kept on its maximum power point, which allows for more realistic testing conditions. The electrical and environmental data is automatically stored allowing for easy analysis.