Radial junction solar cells based on heterojunction with intrinsic thin lay (HIT) Structure

Open Access
Shen, Haoting
Graduate Program:
Materials Science and Engineering
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
January 07, 2014
Committee Members:
  • Joan Marie Redwing, Dissertation Advisor/Co-Advisor
  • Theresa Stellwag Mayer, Committee Chair/Co-Chair
  • Thomas E Mallouk, Committee Member
  • Jeffrey Brownson, Special Member
  • solar cell
  • amorphous silicon
  • photovoltaic
  • nanowire
  • silicon
The radial junction wire array structure was previously proposed as a solar cell geometry to separate the direction of carrier collection from the direction of light absorption, thereby circumventing the need to use high quality but expensive single crystal silicon (c-Si) material that has long minority carrier diffusion lengths. The Si radial junction structure can be realized by forming radial p-n junctions on Si pillar/wire arrays that have a diameter comparable to the minority carrier diffusion length. With proper design, the Si pillar arrays are also able to enhance light trapping and thereby increase the light absorption. However, the larger junction area and surface area on the pillar arrays compared to traditional planar junction Si solar cells makes it challenging to fabricate high performance devices due an in increase in surface defects. Therefore, effective surface passivation strategies are essential for radial junction devices. Hydrogenated amorphous silicon (a-Si:H) deposited by plasma-enhanced chemical vapor deposition (PECVD) using a heterojunction with intrinsic thin layer (HIT) structure has previously been demonstrated as a very effective surface passivation layer for planar c-Si solar cells. It is therefore of interest to use a-Si:H in a HIT layer structure for radial p-n junction c-Si pillar array solar cells. This poses several challenges, however, including the need to fabricate ultra-thin a-Si:H layers conformally on high aspect ratio Si pillars, control the crystallinity at the a-Si:H/c-Si interface to yield a low interface state density and optimize the layer thicknesses, doping and contacts to yield high performance devices. This research in this thesis was aimed at developing the processing technology required to apply the HIT structure to radial junction Si pillar array solar cell devices and to evaluate the device characteristics. Initial studies focused on understanding the effects of process conditions on the growth rate and conformality of a-Si:H deposited by PECVD using SiH4 and H2 on high aspect ratio trench structures. Experimentally, it was found that the a-Si:H growth rate increased with increasing SiH4 flow rate up to a point after which it saturated at a maximum growth rate. In addition, it was found that higher SiH4 flow rates resulted in improved thickness uniformity along the trenches. A model based on gas transport and surface reaction of SiH3 in trenches was developed and was used to explain the experimental results and predict conditions that would yield improved thickness uniformity. The knowledge gained in the PECVD deposition studies was then used to prepare HIT radial junction Si pillar array solar cell devices. Deep reactive ion etching (DRIE) was used to prepare Si pillar arrays on p-type (111) c-Si wafers. A process was developed to prepare n-type a-Si:H films from SiH4 and H2, with PH3 as doping gas. Indium tin oxide (ITO) deposited by sputter deposition and Al-doped ZnO deposited by atomic layer deposition (ALD) were evaluated as transparent conductive top contacts to the n-type a-Si:H layer. By adjusting the SiH4/H2 gas flow ratio, intrinsic a-Si:H was grown on the c-Si surface without epitaxial micro-crystalline growth. Continuous and pulsed deposition modes were investigated for deposition of the intrinsic and n-type a-Si:H layers on the c-Si pillars. The measurements of device light performance shown that slightly lower short circuit current density (Jsc,32 mA/cm2 to 35 mA/cm2) but higher open circuit voltage (Voc, 0.56 V to .47 V) were obtained on the pulsed devices. As the result, higher efficiency (11.6%) was achieved on the pulsed devices (10.6% on the continuous device). The improved performance of the pulsed deposition devices was explained as arising from a higher SiH3 concentration in the initial plasma which lead to a more uniform layer thickness. Planar and radial junction Si wire array HIT solar cell devices were then fabricated and the device performance was compared. A series of p-type c-Si wafers with varying resistivity/doping density were used for this study in order to evaluate the effect of carrier diffusion length on device performance. The saturation current densities (J0) of the radial junction devices were consistently larger than that of the planar devices as a result of the larger junction area. Despite the increased leakage currents, the radial junction HIT cells exhibited similar Voc compared to the planar cells. In addition, at high doping densities (5×1018 cm-3), the Jsc (16.7mA/cm2) and collection efficiency (6.3%) of the radial junction devices was higher than that of comparable planar cells (Jsc 12.7 mA/cm2 and efficiency 5.2%), demonstrating improved collection of photogenerated carriers in this geometry.