Solution-processed organic solar cells (OSCs) based on narrow-band gap small molecules hold great promise as next-generation energy-converting devices. In this paper, we focus on a family of A-π-D-π-A-type small molecules, namely, BDT-nT-ID (n = 1-4) oligomers, consisting of benzo[1,2-b:4,5-b′]dithiophene (BDT) as the central electron-donating (D) core, 1,3-indandione (ID) as the terminal electron-accepting (A) units, and two regioregular oligo(3-hexylthiophene)s (nT) with different numbers of thiophene rings as the π-bridging units, and elucidate their structure-property-function relationships. The effects of the length of the π-bridging nT units on the optical absorption, thermal behavior, morphology, hole mobility, and OSC performance were systematically investigated. All oligomers exhibited broad and intense visible photoabsorption in the 400-700 nm range. The photovoltaic performances of bulk heterojunction OSCs based on BDT-nT-IDs as donors and a fullerene derivative as an acceptor were studied. Among these oligomers, BDT-2T-ID, incorporating bithiophene as the π-bridging units, showed better photovoltaic performance with a maximum power conversion efficiency as high as 6.9% under AM 1.5G illumination without using solvent additives or postdeposition treatments. These favorable properties originated from the well-developed interpenetrating network morphology of BDT-2T-ID, with larger domain sizes in the photoactive layer. Even though all oligomers have the same A-D-A main backbone, structural modulation of the π-bridging nT length was found to impact their self-organization and nanostructure formation in the solid state, as well as the corresponding OSC device performance.
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