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Title: Final Report: Rational Design of Wide Band Gap Buffer Layers for High-Efficiency Thin-Film Photovoltaics

Abstract

The main objective of this project is to enable rational design of wide band gap buffer layer materials for CIGS thin-film PV by building understanding of the correlation of atomic-scale defects in the buffer layer and at the buffer/absorber interface with device electrical properties. Optimized wide band gap buffers are needed to reduce efficiency loss from parasitic absorption in the buffer. The approach uses first-principles materials simulations coupled with nanoscale analytical electron microscopy as well as device electrical characterization. Materials and devices are produced by an industrial partner in a manufacturing line to maximize relevance, with the goal of enabling R&D of new buffer layer compositions or deposition processes to push device efficiencies above 21%. Cadmium sulfide (CdS) is the reference material for analysis, as the prototypical high-performing buffer material.

Authors:
 [1]
  1. Lawrence Livermore National Lab. (LLNL), Livermore, CA (United States)
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
Lawrence Livermore National Lab. (LLNL), Livermore, CA (United States)
Sponsoring Org.:
USDOE
OSTI Identifier:
1331453
Report Number(s):
LLNL-TR-703869
DOE Contract Number:
AC52-07NA27344
Resource Type:
Technical Report
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
36 MATERIALS SCIENCE; 42 ENGINEERING; 14 SOLAR ENERGY; 75 CONDENSED MATTER PHYSICS, SUPERCONDUCTIVITY AND SUPERFLUIDITY

Citation Formats

Lordi, Vincenzo. Final Report: Rational Design of Wide Band Gap Buffer Layers for High-Efficiency Thin-Film Photovoltaics. United States: N. p., 2016. Web. doi:10.2172/1331453.
Lordi, Vincenzo. Final Report: Rational Design of Wide Band Gap Buffer Layers for High-Efficiency Thin-Film Photovoltaics. United States. doi:10.2172/1331453.
Lordi, Vincenzo. 2016. "Final Report: Rational Design of Wide Band Gap Buffer Layers for High-Efficiency Thin-Film Photovoltaics". United States. doi:10.2172/1331453. https://www.osti.gov/servlets/purl/1331453.
@article{osti_1331453,
title = {Final Report: Rational Design of Wide Band Gap Buffer Layers for High-Efficiency Thin-Film Photovoltaics},
author = {Lordi, Vincenzo},
abstractNote = {The main objective of this project is to enable rational design of wide band gap buffer layer materials for CIGS thin-film PV by building understanding of the correlation of atomic-scale defects in the buffer layer and at the buffer/absorber interface with device electrical properties. Optimized wide band gap buffers are needed to reduce efficiency loss from parasitic absorption in the buffer. The approach uses first-principles materials simulations coupled with nanoscale analytical electron microscopy as well as device electrical characterization. Materials and devices are produced by an industrial partner in a manufacturing line to maximize relevance, with the goal of enabling R&D of new buffer layer compositions or deposition processes to push device efficiencies above 21%. Cadmium sulfide (CdS) is the reference material for analysis, as the prototypical high-performing buffer material.},
doi = {10.2172/1331453},
journal = {},
number = ,
volume = ,
place = {United States},
year = 2016,
month = 9
}

Technical Report:

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  • The major objective of this program was to determine the potential of ZnSe and ZnO buffer layers in solar cells based on CuInSe{sub 2} and related alloys. Experimental studies were carried out with CIS and CIGSS substrates. ZnSe films were deposited by a CVD process which involved the reaction of a zinc adduct and H{sub 2}Se. Al/ZnSe/CIS test cells were used for process development. Test cell performance aided in determining the optimum thickness for ZnSe buffer layers to be in the range of 150 {angstrom} to 200 {angstrom} for Siemens CIS material, and between 80 {angstrom} and 120 {angstrom} formore » the graded absorber material. If the buffer layers exceeded these values significantly, the short-circuit current would be reduced to zero. The best efficiency achieved for a ZnSe/CIS cell was an active area value of 9.2%. In general, deposition of a conductive ZnO film on top of a ZnSe/CIS structure resulted in either shunted or inflected I-V characteristics. Two approaches were investigated for depositing ZnO buffer layers, namely, chemical bath deposition and CVD. CVD ZnO buffer layers are grown by reacting a zinc adduct with tetrahydrofuran. Best results were obtained for ZnO buffer layers grown with a substrate temperature ca. 225--250 C. These studies concentrated on Siemens graded absorber material (CIGSS). ZnO/CIS solar cells have been fabricated by first depositing a ZnO buffer layer, followed by deposition of a low resistivity ZnO top contact layer and an Al/Ag collector grid. Several cells were fabricated with an area of 0.44 cm{sup 2} that have total area efficiencies greater than 11%. To date, the best performing ZnO/CIS cell had a total area efficiency of 11.3%. In general, the authors find that ZnO buffer layers should have a resistivity > 1,000 ohm-cm and have a thickness from 200 {angstrom} to 600 {angstrom}. CIS cells studies with ZnO buffer layers grown by CBD also show promise. Finally, simulation studies were carried out using the 1-D code, PC-1D.« less
  • Tandem solar cells (TSCs), which use two or more materials to absorb sunlight, have achieved power conversion efficiencies of >25% versus 11-20% for commercialized single junction solar cell modules. The key to widespread commercialization of TSCs is to develop the wide-band, top solar cell that is both cheap to fabricate and has a high open-circuit voltage (i.e. >1V). Previous work in TSCs has generally focused on using expensive processing techniques with slow growth rates resulting in costs that are two orders of magnitude too expensive to be used in conventional solar cell modules. The objective of the PLANT PV proposalmore » was to investigate the feasibility of using Ag(In,Ga)Se 2 (AIGS) as the wide-bandgap absorber in the top cell of a thin film tandem solar cell (TSC). Despite being studied by very few in the solar community, AIGS solar cells have achieved one of the highest open-circuit voltages within the chalcogenide material family with a Voc of 949 mV when grown with an expensive processing technique (i.e. Molecular Beam Epitaxy). PLANT PV's goal in Phase I of the DOE SBIR was to (1) develop the chemistry to grow AIGS thin films via solution processing techniques to reduce costs and (2) fabricate new device architectures with high open-circuit voltage to produce full tandem solar cells in Phase II. PLANT PV attempted to translate solution processing chemistries that were successful in producing >12% efficient Cu(In,Ga)Se 2 solar cells by replacing copper compounds with silver. The main thrust of the research was to determine if it was possible to make high quality AIGS thin films using solution processing and to fully characterize the materials properties. PLANT PV developed several different types of silver compounds in an attempt to fabricate high quality thin films from solution. We found that silver compounds that were similar to the copper based system did not result in high quality thin films. PLANT PV was able to deposit AIGS thin films using a mixture of solution and physical vapor deposition processing, but these films lacked the p-type doping levels that are required to make decent solar cells. Over the course of the project PLANT PV was able to fabricate efficient CIGS solar cells (8.7%) but could not achieve equivalent performance using AIGS. During the nine-month grant PLANT PV set up a variety of thin film characterization tools (e.g. drive-level capacitance profiling) at the Molecular Foundry, a Department of Energy User Facility, that are now available to both industrial and academic researchers via the grant process. PLANT PV was also able to develop the back end processing of thin film solar cells at Lawrence Berkeley National Labs to achieve 8.7% efficient CIGS solar cells. This processing development will be applied to other types of thin film PV cells at the Lawrence Berkeley National Labs. While PLANT PV was able to study AIGS film growth and optoelectronic properties we concluded that AIGS produced using these methods would have a limited efficiency and would not be commercially feasible. PLANT PV did not apply for the Phase II of this grant.« less
  • The objective of this program was to prepare by low-cost ultra-high-vacuum (uhv) methods on all-thin-film (approximately 1.6 eV) wide-bandgap solar cell using CdZnTe as the absorber layer. ZnTe/CdZnTe/n-CdS/ITO/glass structures were prepared by congruent evaporation in uhv. Ohmic contact to the ZnTe with HgZnTe and conversion of the high-resistivity ZnTe and CdZnTe was simultaneously undertaken by the closed-space vapor deposition of HgZnTe. Mesa structures did not show blocking action. Single-crystal cells were prepared by the deposition of CdS on bulk p-CdTe and thin-film, single-crystal p-CdTe-on-sapphire and p-CdZnTe-on-sapphire. A comparison of results suggests that the all-thin-film polycrystalline structure is limited by themore » CdZnTe. 6 refs., 4 figs., 1 tab.« less
  • This report describes work performed during the past year by The University of Toledo photovoltaics group. Researchers continued to develop rf sputtering for CdS/CdTe thin-film solar cells and to optimize the post-deposition process steps to match the characteristics of the sputtering process. During the fourth phase of the present contract, we focused on determining factors that limit the efficiency in our ''all-sputtered'' thin-film CdTe solar cells on soda-lime glass. These issues include controlling CdS/CdTe interdiffusion, understanding the properties of the CdS{sub x}Te{sub 1-x} alloy, optimizing process conditions for CdCl{sub 2} treatments, manipulating the influence of ion bombardment during rf sputtering,more » and understanding the role of copper in quenching photoluminescence and carrier lifetimes in CdTe. To better understand the important CdS/CdTe interdiffusion process, we have continued our collaboration with the University at Buffalo and Brookhaven National Synchrotron Light Source in measurements using grazing-incidence X-rays. Interdiffusion results in the formation of the ternary alloy material CdS{sub x}Te{sub 1-x} at or near the heterojunction, where its properties are critical to the operation of the solar cell. We have placed significant effort on characterizing this alloy, an effort begun in the last phase. A complete set of films spanning the alloy range, prepared by pulsed-laser deposition, has now been characterized by wavelength dispersive X-ray spectroscopy and optical absorption at NREL; by Raman scattering, X-ray diffraction, and electrical measurements in our lab; and by spectroscopic ellipsometry at Brooklyn College. We continued to participate in cooperative activity with the CdTe National Team. We prepared a series of depositions on borosilicate glass substrates having doped SnO{sub 2} layers coated with TiO{sub 2} (prepared by the University of South Florida and Harvard) and similar substrates having a resistive SnO{sub 2} layer on the doped tin oxide (fabricated by Golden Photon). The Golden Photon high-resistivity SnO{sub 2} structure yielded excellent cell performance.« less
  • In this work, ITN Energy Systems (ITN) and lower-tier subcontractor Colorado School of Mines (CSM) explore the replacement of the molecular chalcogen precursors during deposition (e.g., Se2 or H2Se) with more reactive chalcogen monomers or radicals (e.g., Se). Molecular species are converted to atomic species in a low-pressure inductively coupled plasma (ICP). This program explored the use of plasma-activated chalcogen sources in CIGS co-evaporation to lower CIGS deposition temperature, increase utilization, increase deposition rate, and improve S:Se stoichiometry control. Plasma activation sources were designed and built, then operated and characterized over a wide range of conditions. Optical emission and massmore » spectrometry data show that chalcogens are effectively dissociated in the plasma. The enhanced reactivity achieved by the plasma processing was demonstrated by conversion of pre-deposited metal films to respective chalcogen-containing phases at low temperature and low chalcogen flux. The plasma-assisted co-evaporation (PACE) sources were also implemented in CIGS co-evaporation. No benefit from PACE was observed in device results, and frequent deposition failures occurred.« less