Light-emitting electrochemical cells (LEECs) utilizing small molecule emitters such as iridium complexes have great potential as low-cost emissive devices. In these devices, ions rearrange during operation to facilitate carrier injection, bringing about efficient operation from simple, single layer devices. Recent work has shown that the luminance, efficiency, and responsiveness of iridium-based LEECs are greatly enhanced by the inclusion of small amounts of lithium salts (≤0.5%/wt) into the active layer. However, the origin of this enhancement has yet to be demonstrated experimentally. Furthermore, although iridium-based devices have been the longstanding leader among small molecule LEECs, fundamental understanding of the ionic distribution in these devices under operation is lacking. Herein, we use scanning Kelvin probe microscopy to measure the in situ potential profiles and electric field distributions of planar iridium-based LEECs and clarify the role of ionic lithium additives. In pristine devices, it is found that ions do not pack densely at the cathode, and ionic redistribution is slow. Inclusion of small amounts of Li[PF6] greatly increases ionic space charge near the cathode that doubles the peak electric fields and enhances electronic injection relative to pristine devices. This study confirms and clarifies a number of longstanding hypotheses regarding iridium LEECs and recent postulates concerning optimization of their operation.
- double layer formation
- ionic transition metal complexes
- mixed conductors
- scanning Kelvin probe microscopy
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- General Materials Science