Nanoparticle dispersions open up an ecofriendly route toward printable organic solar cells. They can be formed from a variety of organic semiconductors by using miniemulsions that employ surfactants to stabilize the nanoparticles in dispersion and to prevent aggregation. However, whenever surfactant-based nanoparticle dispersions have been used to fabricate solar cells, the reported performances remain moderate. In contrast, solar cells from nanoparticle dispersions formed by precipitation (without surfactants) can exhibit power conversion efficiencies close to those of state-of-the-art solar cells processed from blend solutions using chlorinated solvents. In this work, we use small-angle neutron scattering measurements and transient absorption spectroscopy to investigate why surfactant-free nanoparticles give rise to efficient organic solar cells. We show that surfactant-free nanoparticles comprise a uniform distribution of small semiconductor domains, similar to that of bulk-heterojunction films formed using traditional solvent processing. This observation differs from surfactant-based miniemulsion nanoparticles that typically exh ... mehribit core–shell structures. Hence, the surfactant-free nanoparticles already possess the optimum morphology for efficient energy conversion before they are assembled into the photoactive layer of a solar cell. This structural property underpins the superior performance of the solar cells containing surfactant-free nanoparticles and is an important design criterion for future nanoparticle inks.