Charge-transfer excitons in strongly coupled organic semiconductors

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  • Charge-transfer excitons in strongly coupled organic semiconductors

    Jean-Franois Glowe,1 Mathieu Perrin,1 David Beljonne,2 Sophia C. Hayes,3 Fabrice Gardebien,2 and Carlos Silva1,*1Dpartement de Physique et Regroupement Qubcois sur les Matriaux de Pointe, Universit de Montral, C.P. 6128,

    Succursale Centre-ville, Montral, Qubec, Canada H3C 3J72Service de Chimie des Matriaux Nouveaux, Universit de Mons-Hainaut, Place du Parc 20, B-7000 Mons, Belgium

    3Department of Chemistry, University of Cyprus, P.O. Box 20537, 1678 Nicosia, CyprusReceived 29 November 2009; published 5 January 2010

    Time-resolved and temperature-dependent photoluminescence measurements on one-dimensionalsexithiophene lattices reveal intrinsic branching of photoexcitations to two distinct species: self-trapped exci-tons and dark charge-transfer excitons CTXs; 5% yield, with radii spanning 23 sites. The significantcharge-transfer exciton CTX yield results from the strong charge-transfer character of the Frenkel excitonband due to the large free-exciton bandwidth 400 meV in these supramolecular nanostructures.

    DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevB.81.041201 PACS numbers: 78.55.Kz, 71.35.Aa, 71.38.Ht, 78.47.jd

    The physics of organic semiconductor materials attractsenormous multidisciplinary interest due to emerging applica-tions in optoelectronics. Their electronic properties dependsensitively upon supramolecular structure. A promising strat-egy to enhance carrier mobilities, for example, is to inducesupramolecular order in configurationally disordered systemssuch as solution-processable conjugated polymers.1 Proto-typical examples of this approach are regioregular poly-thiophenes, which display field-effect mobilities up to0.6 cm2 V1 s1 in film microstructures showing lamellar in-terchain packing,24 resulting in two-dimensional delocaliza-tion of charge carriers.5,6 Cofacial interactions between poly-mer chains lead to H-aggregates with spatially correlatedenergetic disorder.7 In the film microstructures that result inthe best field-effect mobilities the supramolecular electronicresonant Coulomb coupling energies J are 30 meV,8,9which are weak compared to molecular reorganization ener-gies 180 meV. This is a result of long conjugationlengths in the lamellar architecture, such that local site inter-actions are weak.10 As the chain length decreases below theconjugation length, J increases and may enter an interme-diate regime.1115 Here, we address the nature of primaryphotoexcitations in this regime. We demonstrate, by meansof time and temperature-dependent photoluminescence PLmeasurements on chiral, helical sexithiophene stacks16 la-beled T6 for brevity, that excitation of the H-aggregate bandwith femtosecond laser pulses produces a high intrinsic yield5% of charge-transfer excitons CTXs in which the cen-ter of mass of electron and hole are localized at differentsites of the stack. These are dark states, which recombine topopulate luminescent states with a distribution of rate con-stants, and we determine that their radius is confined to 23sites. The direct CTX yield is a consequence of the largeexciton bandwidth, providing access to charge-transferstates.

    T6 99.9% purity16 solutions of 104 M in anhydrousn-butanol were studied in a temperature-controlled UV-gradefused silica cuvette 1 mm pathlength. Films were producedby drop casting the solution on Spectrosil substrates. Absorp-tion spectra were measured with a Varian Cary-500 spec-trometer. Time-resolved PL measurements were performedwith a femtosecond laser system KMLabs Dragon, 780 nm,40 fs FWHM, 1 kHz repetition rate, 1.4 mJ/pulse, which

    was frequency doubled in a -BBO crystal to generate390-nm 3.19-eV pulses, and a spectrograph with a gated,intensified CCD camera Princeton Instruments SP-2156 andPIMAX 1024HB. Femtosecond absorption transients weremeasured with this ultrafast source, and probing with awhite-light continuum generated in a CaF2 window.

    Spontaneous supramolecular organization of T6 Fig. 1into chiral, columnar stacks is observed with thermo-tropic irreversibility17 below a transition temperature of31312 K at the solution concentration used in this study.The supramolecular packing and the size distribution ofthese nanostructures, which grow by a nucleation self-assembly mechanism, depend sensitively on the material pu-rity and on the solution cooling protocol.16 In all of thestudies reported here, the sample was cooled at a rate of1 K min1, but the PL spectral band shape and thetime-resolved PL dynamics do not depend sensitively onthe cooling protocol. Figure 1a displays the solution ab-sorption spectrum in the supramolecular phase 283 K. Wehave previously extracted a free-exciton bandwidth W=4J















    AbsorbancePL 12KPL 298K







    ity Energy (eV)





    FIG. 1. Color online Molecular structure of T6. a Absor-bance spectrum of T6 nanostructures in n-butanol solution at 283 K,and steady-state PL spectra of a drop-cast film at 12 and 298 K. bDelayed PL spectrum from 6.5 s after excitation and a gate widthof 500 s in n-butanol solution. The inset depicts the chiral, cofa-cial T6 stacks.

    PHYSICAL REVIEW B 81, 041201R 2010


    1098-0121/2010/814/0412014 2010 The American Physical Society041201-1

  • 400 meV by analyzing this spectrum,13 which places thesenanostructures firmly in the intermediate electronic cou-pling regime.10 Also shown are the corresponding steady-state PL spectra of a drop-cast film at room and low tempera-tures. These display a similar spectral band shape as in coldsolution,13 indicating that we preserve the supramolecularstructure upon casting the film. The origin 00 vibronicband is weak due to the H-aggregate nature of thearchitecture,18 and is only visible due to energetic disorder.19

    Its weak temperature dependence is consistent with the largeW deduced from the absorption spectrum; even at room tem-perature, thermal excitation is not sufficient to partiallyallow this vibronic feature. This is unlike the case in poly-thiophene films, which feature much smaller W, and are ina weak excitonic coupling regime.8,9 Quantum chemical cal-culations of related supramolecular nanostructures indicatethat the PL spectrum is due to vibrationally dressed Frenkelexcitons with a highly localized center of mass due to adisorder width of several hundred meV and low spatialcorrelation.1820 Figure 1b shows the delayed PL spectrumover s time scales, which is identical to the steady-statespectra in part a, and displays linear integrated intensitybelow excitation fluences of 800 J cm2.21

    We now consider photoexcitation dynamics in T6 latticesby comparing the 1Bu femtosecond transient absorption Fig.2a and time-dependent PL measurements over microsec-ond time windows Fig. 2b. All decay behavior is indepen-dent of fluence as demonstrated in part a. Following arapid initial relaxation 1 ps the exciton decay is biphasicover a microsecond time window. We observe an exponentialdecay with 1 ns time constant, characteristic of excitonlifetimes in conjugated oligomer nanostructures.13,22 We ob-serve a concomitant delayed PL signal filled circles whichis spectrally identical to the steady-state PL Fig. 1; the de-layed PL is therefore excitonic. The spectrally integrated,delayed PL intensity is linear over the pump fluence range

    investigated,21 and the decay kinetics are independent oftemperature see below, ruling out bimolecular recombina-tion events such as triplet-triplet annihilation as the origin ofthis delayed PL. We therefore attribute it to recombination ofCTXs, analogous to geminate polaron pairs in conjugatedpolymer films.24

    The functional form of the delayed PL decay is stretchedexponential, I0 expt /, with =0.5 and =30050 ns. Figure 2b displays this function.

    In order to explore the origin of the nonexponential decayof the delayed PL, we present related measurements in adrop-cast film of supramolecular stacks at 8 K open squaresin Fig. 2b; in which the PL spectra are consistent withthose in Fig. 1. The delayed PL decay follows a stretchedexponential with similar parameters as the supramolecularphase in solution, ruling out a time-dependent rate constantdue to endothermic activation. We therefore ascribe the non-exponential PL decay simply to a distribution of rate con-stants .

    The relative contribution of the delayed PL to the time-integrated PL intensity provides a lower limit to the CTXphotogeneration yield, . We extract =4.81.0% in thesupramolecular phase in solution. In contrast, we measure=0.250.15% at 350 K, well above the transition tem-perature for disassembly. In the stack, does not dependstrongly upon temperature down to 8 K, where we find3.91.0%, indicating that CTXs are produced directly byphotoexcitation. We propose the following photophysicalpicture. Initial photoexcitation of the Frenkel free-excitonband branches into highly localized self-trapped excitons,18displaying prompt exponential dynamics, in which the elec-tron and hole centers of mass are delocalized over essentiallyone oligomer lattice site. Concomitantly, CTXs are produceddirectly with 5% efficiency. The branching occurs due toresonance between Frenkel excitons and CT states, whichnormally lie 0.20.3 eV above localized Frenkel excitonstates,23 because the exciton bandwidth in these stronglycoupled stacks is large enough to encompass the CT states.25

    CTXs then recombine with a distribution of rate constantsresulting in the nonexponential delayed PL decay.

    We have performed quantum-chemical calculations on astack of 8 T6 molecules. These extend previous force-fieldmolecular-dynamics MD simulations.17 Fig. 3a displaysthe ensemble absorption spectrum obtained by averaging 20snapshots extracted along the MD trajectory solid line, andthat in a single snapshot dotted line, simulated at theINDO/SCI level.26 We calculate the CT radius for which thespatial extent of the wave function spans more than one oli-gomer; see Ref. 25 as a function of the vertical excitationenergy Fig. 3b for one stack snapshot. We also plot thefractional CT character versus excitation energy in Fig. 3c.We note that the CT character and the corresponding radiusincrease with energy, and that it dominates above 3 eV.

    A PL decay function characterized by a distribution ofdecay constants P is its Laplace transform,

    It = I00

    Pexp td , 1

    where 0Pd=1. For a stretched-exponential decay with

    =0.5, the probability distribution is





    0.001 0.01 0.1 1 10Time (s)

    Supramol. film (8K)Supramol. phase (283K)


    0.1 1 10 100 1000Time (ps)














    240 J/cm2

    1320 J/cm2


    FIG. 2. Color online a Femtosecond absorption transientsprobing at 1.42 eV with two pump fluences indicated in the caption.b Time-resolved PL intensity for T6 in the supramolecular phaseblue filled circles in solution, and in a drop-cast film of the stacksat 8 K black open squares. The curves through the delayed PLdecay are stretched-exponential fits with =0.5 and =30050 ns for the solution at 283 K and for the film.

    GLOWE et al. PHYSICAL REVIEW B 81, 041201R 2010



  • P =exp 41


    and is shown in Fig. 4a with =300 ns. This distribution iscentered at peak= 0.550.1 s1.

    We postulate that P arises from a distribution of CTXradii Pr. Figure 4b displays a histogram of Pr based onthe quantum-chemical calculations described above, and Fig.4c plots the exciton participation ratio. This quantity dis-plays the distribution of the population in which the electronand hole center of mass are separated by a specific number oflattice sites, determined from the calculations presented inFig. 3, and expresses the extent of exciton delocalization.P is temperature independent; therefore, recombinationmust occur via a tunneling mechanism. The electron-holeelectronic coupling matrix element decreases exponentiallywith distance due to the exponential radial character of theelectronic wave functions. If follows a golden rule, thenr= expr. We hence plot Pr in Fig. 4b for variousvalues of 0 and , and find the best agreement with thequantum-chemical calculations for 0=40.5 s

    1 and =0.9 1. We note that peak is comparable to rates mea-sured in donor-bridge-acceptor triads27 but is surprisinglylow for a cofacial stack. We speculate that the polar envi-ronment surrounding the stack defined by the oligoethyl-eneoxide end groups plays a role by stabilizing the CTX.Such environment may also play a role in establishing .

    The high value of is in contrast to that in configuration-ally disordered conjugated polymer films, where 1%.28

    The magnitude of J is important in this respect. In such co-facial aggregates with strong excitonic coupling, intermo-lecular interactions enable quasiparticle energy dispersionsupporting CT states. In T6 stacks a large free-exciton band-width W renders an intermolecular CT state accessible. As Wdecreases with increasing -conjugation length,13 the influ-ence of CT states decreases along with . Nevertheless,weakly allowed CTX states are important in a complete the-oretical description of photoinduced absorption spectra ofconjugated polymers in the solid state.23,29

    We have demonstrated that in organic semiconductors, thesupramolecular coupling energy dominates the nature of theprimary photoexcitations. The large free-exciton bandwidthis significantly larger than attainable in the most highly or-ganized semiconductor polymer microstructures,8 but the pri-mary photoexcitations are highly localized. The Frenkel ex-citon band mixes with charge-transfer states, which play animportant role in the primary photophysics. This work isconsistent with independent experimental evidence for dis-crete, localized CTX states at the surface of pentacene crys-talline films, probed by means of time-resolved two-photon



















    ) (eV)


    FIG. 3. Color online a Ensemble solid line and single-stackdashed line absorption spectra of a stack of 8 T6 simulated at theINDO/SCI level Ref. 17. Lorentzian functions with linewidth 0.05eV have been used to convolute the spectra. The ensemble spectraare obtained by averaging over 20 snapshots extracted along theMD trajectory. b Charge-transfer radius versus vertical excitationenergy for one snapshot see inset, and c its fractional charge-transfer character.

    FIG. 4. Color online a Distribution of recombination rateconstants given by Eq. 2. The inset depicts the photophysicalmodel put forth here. Vertical excitation of the free-exciton band isfollowed by branching to self-trapped Frenkel excitons STE,95% and charge transfer CTX, 5%. The latter recombine to theformer state with P. b INDO/SCI histogram of charge-transferradii built on the basis of an ensem...