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CdTe alloys and their application for increasing solar cell performance




Swanson, Drew E., author
Sampath, W. S., advisor
Sites, James R., committee member
Williams, John D., committee member
Popat, Ketul, committee member

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Cadmium Telluride (CdTe) thin film solar is the largest manufactured solar cell technology in the United States and is responsible for one of the lowest costs of utility scale solar electricity at a purchase agreement of $0.0387/kWh. However, this cost could be further reduced by increasing the cell efficiency. To bridge the gap between the high efficiency technology and low cost manufacturing, a research and development tool and process was built and tested. This fully automated single vacuum PV manufacturing tool utilizes multiple inline close space sublimation (CSS) sources with automated substrate control. This maintains the proven scalability of the CSS technology and CSS source design but with the added versatility of independent substrate motion. This combination of a scalable deposition technology with increased cell fabrication flexibility has allowed for high efficiency cells to be manufactured and studied. The record efficiency of CdTe solar cells is lower than fundamental limitations due to a significant deficit in voltage. It has been modeled that there are two potential methods of decreasing this voltage deficiency. The first method is the incorporation of a high band gap film at the back contact to induce a conduction-band barrier that can reduce recombination by reflecting electrons from the back surface. The addition of a Cd1-xMgxTe (CMT) layer at the back of a CdTe solar cell should induce this desired offset and reflect both photoelectrons and forward-current electrons away from the rear surface. Higher collection of photoelectrons will increase the cells current and the reduction of forward current will increase the cells voltage. To have the optimal effect, CdTe must have reasonable carrier lifetimes and be fully depleted. To achieve this experimentally, CdTe layers have been grown sufficiently thin to help produce a fully depleted cell. A variety of measurements including performance curves, transmission electron microscopy, x-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, and energy-dispersive x-ray spectroscopy were performed to characterize these cells. Voltage improvements on the order of 50 mV are presented at a thin (1 μm) CdTe absorber condition. However an overall reduction in fill factor (FF) is seen, with a strong reduction in FF as the magnesium incorporation is increased. Detailed material characterization shows the formation of oxides at the back of CdMgTe during the passivation process. A CdTe capping layer is added to reduce oxidation and help maintain the uniformity of the CdMgTe layer. A tellurium back contact is also added in place of a carbon paint back contact, reducing the impact of the valance band offset (VBO) from the CMT. With the addition of the capping layer and tellurium back contact a consistent 50 mV increase is seen with improved FF. However this voltage increase is well below modeled Voc increases of 150 mV. CMT double hetero-structures are manufactured and analyzed to estimate the interface recombination at the CdTe/CMT interface. The CdTe/CMT interface is approximated at 2*105 cm s-1 and modeling is referenced predicting significant reduction in performance based on this interface quality. To improve interface quality by removing the need for a vacuum break, the deposition hardware is incorporated into the primary deposition system. Second, CdTe has a somewhat higher band gap than optimal for single-junction terrestrial solar-cell power generation. A reduction in the band gap could therefore result in an overall improvement in performance. To reduce the band gap, selenium was alloyed with CdTe using a novel co-sublimation extension of the close-space-sublimation process. Co-sublimated layers of CdSeTe with various selenium concentrations were characterized for optical absorption and atomic concentrations, as well as to track changes in their morphology and crystallinity. The lower band-gap CdSeTe films were then incorporated into the front of CdTe cells. This two-layer band-gap structure demonstrated higher current collection and increased quantum efficiency at longer wavelengths. Material characterization shows the diffusion of selenium through the CdTe during passivation resulting in improved in lifetime and a reduced voltage deficit at lower band gaps.


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