Strain effects on the work function of an organic semiconductor

Yanfei Wu, Annabel R. Chew, Geoffrey A. Rojas, Gjergji Sini, Greg Haugstad, Alex Belianinov, Sergei V. Kalinin, Hong Li, Chad Risko, Jean Luc Brédas, Alberto Salleo, C. Daniel Frisbie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

82 Scopus citations


Establishing fundamental relationships between strain and work function (WF) in organic semiconductors is important not only for understanding electrical properties of organic thin films, which are subject to both intrinsic and extrinsic strains, but also for developing flexible electronic devices. Here we investigate tensile and compressive strain effects on the WF of rubrene single crystals. Mechanical strain induced by thermal expansion mismatch between the substrate and rubrene is quantified by X-ray diffraction. The corresponding WF change is measured by scanning Kelvin probe microscopy. The WF of rubrene increases (decreases) significantly with in-plane tensile (compressive) strain, which agrees qualitatively with density functional theory calculations. An elastic-to-plastic transition, characterized by a steep rise of the WF, occurs at ∼0.05% tensile strain along the rubrene π-stacking direction. The results provide the first concrete link between mechanical strain and WF of an organic semiconductor and have important implications for understanding the connection between structural and electronic disorder in soft organic electronic materials.

Original languageEnglish
Article number10270
JournalNature Communications
StatePublished - Feb 1 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was primarily supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. DMR-0706011. Part of this work was carried out in the Characterization Facility, University of Minnesota, which received partial support from NSF through the MRSEC program under Grant No. DMR-1420013. SKPM measurements in this work were conducted at the Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences, which is a DOE Office of Science User Facility. Part of this work was performed at the Stanford Nano Shared Facilities (SNSF). We acknowledge assistance for crystal growth by Dr Wei Xie and Xinglong Ren, and thank them as well as Dr Christopher Sutton for helpful discussions.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Physics and Astronomy


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