This paper is an attempt to elucidate the effects of the important spray characteristics on the surface morphology and light absorbance of spray-on P3HT:PCBM thin-films, used as an active layer in polymer solar cells (PSCs). Spray coating or deposition is a viable scalable technique for the large-scale, fast, and low-cost fabrication of solution-processed solar cells, and has been widely used for device fabrication, although the fundamental understanding of the underlying and controlling parameters, such as spray characteristics, droplet dynamics, and surface wettability, is still limited, making the results on device fabrication not reproducible and unreliable. In this paper, following the conventional PSC architecture, a PEDOT:PSS layer is first spin-coated on glass substrates, followed by the deposition of P3HT:PCBM using an automatic ultrasonic spray coating system, with a movable nozzle tip, to mimic an industrial manufacturing process. To gain insight, the effects of the spray carrier air pressure, the number of spray passes, the precursor flow rate, and precursor concentration are studied on the surface topography and light absorbance spectra of the spray-on films. Among the results, it is found that despite the high roughness of spray-on films, the light absorbance of the film is satisfactory. It is also found that the absorbance of spray-on films is a linear function of the number of spray passes or deposition layers, based on which an effective film thickness is defined for rough spray-on films. The effective thickness of a rough spray-on P3HT:PCBM film was found to be one-quarter of that of a flat film predicted by a simple mass balance.
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