Bulk heterojunction (BHJ) polymer solar cells (PSCs) that can be fabricated by solution processing techniques are under intense investigation in both academic institutions and industrial companies because of their potential to enable mass production of flexible and cost-effective alternative to silicon-based solar cells. A combination of novel polymer development, nanoscale morphology control and processing optimization has led to over 8% of power conversion efficiencies (PCEs) for BHJ PSCs with a conventional device structure. Attempts to develop PSCs with an inverted device structure as required for achieving high PCEs and good stability have, however, met with limited success. Here, we report that (1) solution-processed zinc oxide (ZnO) thin film as an electron extraction layer for inverted polymer solar cells. Operated at room temperature, no obviously degradation was observed from the PSCs with ZnO layer after continuously illuminating the devices for 4 h. However, a significantly degradation was observed from the PSCs without ZnO buffer layer after illuminating the devices only for 1 h. Furthermore, PSCs with ZnO buffer layer also show very good shelf stability; only 10% degradation observed in PCEs after 6 months; (2) a high PCE of 8.4% under AM 1.5G irradiation was achieved for BHJ PSCs with an inverted device structure. This high efficiency was obtained through interfacial engineering of solution-processed electron extraction layer, ZnO, leading to facilitate electron transport and suppress bimolecular recombination. All these results provided an important progress for solution-processed PSCs, and demonstrated that PSCs with an inverted device structure are comparable with PSCs with the conventional device structure.

This paper was originally published in Polymer (2012) 53, 5437-5448.

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