Date of Award


Degree Name

MS in Engineering - Materials Engineering


Biomedical and General Engineering


Richard Savage


Durable, cheap, and lightweight polymer based solar cells are needed, if simply to meet the demand for decentralized electrical power production in traditionally “off-grid” areas. Using a blend of Poly(3-hexylthiophene-2,5-diyl) (P3HT), Phenyl-C61-butyric acid methyl ester (PCBM), and the low band-gap polymer Poly[2,6-(4,4-bis-(2- ethylhexyl)-4H-cyclopenta [2,1-b;3,4-b′]dithiophene)-alt-4,7(2,1,3-benzothiadiazole)] (PCPDTBT), we have fabricated devices with a wide spectral response and 3% power conversion efficiency in AM 1.5 conditions; however, this thin film system exhibits only 0.43 optical density at 500 nm. To improve the performance of this polymer blend photovoltaic, we aim to increase absorption by adding CdSe(ZnS) core (shell) quantum dots. Four groups of devices are fabricated: a control group with an active polymer layer of 16 mg/mL P3HT, 16 mg/mL PCBM, and 4 mg/mL PCPDTBT; and three groups with dispersed quantum dots at 4 mg/ml, 1 mg/mL, and 0.25 mg/mL. The (CdSe)ZnS quantum dots are coated with octadecylamine ligands and have a peak absorbance at 560 nm and peak emission at 577 nm. The active layer was dissolved in chlorobenzene solvent and spun on glass substrates, patterned with indium tin oxide. The devices were then annealed for fifteen minutes at 110° C, 140° C, and 170° C. Current-voltage characteristic curves v and optical density data were taken before and after the anneal step. Finally, surface characterization was conducted with atomic force microscopy and electrostatic force microscopy. When compared to the control, the sensitized devices exhibited increased absorption and depressed electrical performance with increasing quantum dot loading. The surface morphology, both electrical and physical, showed deviation from the typical values and patterns shown by the control that increased with quantum dot loading. When the degrading electrical characteristics, increasing optical absorbance, and surface changes, are considered together, it becomes likely that the quantum dots interact in a significant manner with the morphology of the P3HT phase, which leads to an overall decrease in performance.