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Surface and grain boundary carbon heterogeneity in CH3NH3PbI3 perovskites and its impact on optoelectronic properties

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Rivaling state-of-the-art crystalline silicon, organic-inorganic hybrid perovskites have been intensely studied in recent years. Surface and interfacial engineering have been a focus for performance improvement. Even though significant progress has been made during the last decade in terms of the diversity and capability of perovskite-based devices, the structure-property relationship, particularly at the surface, which governs the real-world performance of these applications, is still unresolved. In the article, this issue was addressed by employing synchrotron-related experimental measurements, and a mechanism that correlates microstructure with surface chemistry was resolved. As a powerful and highly sensitive spectromicroscopy, soft x ray photoemission electron microscopy (X-PEEM) was used to probe the surface of perovskite films varying in post solvent annealing. Static and in situ grazing incidence hard x ray diffraction (GIXD) was used to track the grain growth dynamics during the film formation process. It was found that the nature of the surfaces was dictated by the local chemistry that varied due to mass flow during the development of the microstructure. Combining optical and electronic characterizations, it was confirmed that a more homogenous chemistry, i.e., uniform chemical components and properties, along with reduced strain and grain boundary energies, yielded more defect-tolerant films. Grain boundaries were more favorable for screening carriers than those in the control film. Our findings underscore the importance of the uniformity in the surface for developing a chemistry-structure-property relationship in perovskite materials, as well as engineering local chemistry toward high-performance and stable devices.

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