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J Am Chem Soc. 2004 Apr 7;126(13):4116-7.

Charge injection and photooxidation of single conjugated polymer molecules.

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Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and the Center for Nano- and Molecular Science and Technology, University of Texas, Austin, Texas, USA.


The complex, coupled mechanisms of charge transfer and oxidative damage in organic electronic devices (such as organic light-emitting diodes (OLED), solar cells, etc.) have been elucidated by a new technique that combines single-molecule spectroscopy with charge injection from a metal electrode. The experiments employed a sandwich device architecture (Au/TPD/MEH-PPV:PMMA/SiO2/ITO), essentially a modified OLED with a charge-blocking layer (SiO2) to suppress charge injection at the ITO electrode. The fluorescence (photoluminescence) of isolated MEH-PPV conjugated polymer molecules imbedded in the device was observed to exhibit diverse time- and electrical bias-dependent effects. These include: (i) fluorescence quenching due to interactions between MEH-PPV and holes in the TPD hole-transport layer; (ii) fluorescence quenching, or "photobleaching", due to chemical defects at MEH-PPV generated by photooxidation; and (iii) a novel process, reductive "repair" of the oxidative chemical defects by externally injected carriers. These results demonstrate a very different mechanism for photobleaching of organic conjugated materials than is generally assumed to operate and, furthermore, suggest an intimate relationship among photobleaching, charge transport, and persistent photoconductivity in organic materials.

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