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Advanced research deposition system (ARDS) for processing CdTe solar cells




Barricklow, Keegan Corey, author
Sampath, Walajabad, advisor
Sites, James, committee member
Olsson, Anders, committee member

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CdTe solar cells have been commercialized at the Gigawatt/year level. The development of volume manufacturing processes for next generation CdTe photovoltaics (PV) with higher efficiencies requires research systems with flexibility, scalability, repeatability and automation. The Advanced Research Deposition Systems (ARDS) developed by the Materials Engineering Laboratory (MEL) provides such a platform for the investigation of materials and manufacturing processes necessary to produce the next generation of CdTe PV. Limited by previous research systems, the ARDS was developed to provide process and hardware flexibility, accommodating advanced processing techniques, and capable of producing device quality films. The ARDS is a unique, in-line process tool with nine processing stations. The system was designed, built and assembled at the Materials Engineering Laboratory. Final assembly, startup, characterization and process development are the focus of this research. Many technical challenges encountered during the startup of the ARDS were addressed in this research. In this study, several hardware modifications needed for the reliable operation of the ARDS were designed, constructed and successfully incorporated into the ARDS. The effect of process condition on film properties for each process step was quantified. Process development to achieve 12% efficient baseline solar cell required investigation of discrete processing steps, troubleshooting process variation, and developing performance correlations. Subsequent to this research, many advances have been demonstrated with the ARDS. The ARDS consistently produces devices of 12% ±.5% by the process of record (POR). The champion cell produced to date utilizing the ARDS has an efficiency of 16.2% on low cost commercial sodalime glass and utilizes advanced films. The ARDS has enabled investigation of advanced concepts for processing CdTe devices including, Plasma Cleaning, Plasma Enhanced Closed Space Sublimation (PECSS), Electron Reflector (ER) using Cd1-xMgxTe (CMT) structure and alternative device structures. The ARDS has been instrumental in the collaborative research with many institutions.


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