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ACS Nano. 2012 Feb 28;6(2):1849-64. doi: 10.1021/nn2051295. Epub 2012 Feb 9.

Microstructure of polycrystalline PBTTT films: domain mapping and structure formation.

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Cavendish Laboratory, University of Cambridge, J. J. Thomson Avenue, Cambridge, CB3 0HE, United Kingdom.


We utilize near-edge X-ray absorption fine structure (NEXAFS) spectroscopy and scanning transmission X-ray microscopy (STXM) to study the microstructure and domain structure of polycrystalline films of the semiconducting polymer poly(2,5-bis(3-tetradecylthiophen-2-yl)thieno[3,2-b]thiophene) (PBTTT). Total electron yield NEXAFS spectroscopy is used to examine the surface structure of the first 1-2 molecular layers, while bulk-sensitive STXM is used to produce maps of domain orientation and order sampled through the entire film thickness. We study different phases of PBTTT including as-cast, terraced and nanoribbon morphologies produced via spin-coating as well as aligned films of as-cast and nanoribbon morphologies produced by zone-casting. For the terraced morphology, domains are observed that are larger than the size of the terraced surface features, and the calculated degree of order is reduced compared to the nanoribbon morphology. For zone-cast films, we find that, although little optical anisotropy is observed in the bulk of as-cast films, a high degree of surface structural anisotropy is observed with NEXAFS spectroscopy, similar to what is observed in annealed nanoribbon films. This observation indicates that the aligned surface structure in unannealed zone-cast films templates the bulk ordering of the aligned nanoribbon phase. STXM domain mapping of aligned nanoribbon films reveals elongated, micrometer-wide domains with each domain misoriented with respect to its neighbor by up to 45°, but with broad domain boundaries. Within each nanoribbon domain, a high degree of X-ray dichroism is observed, indicating correlated ordering throughout the bulk of the film.


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