DAMP HEAT STABILITY OF TRANSPARENT CONDUCTIVE ZINC OXIDES: ROLE OF ENCAPSULANTS AND PROTECTIVE LAYERS
The mechanisms and environmental influences that cause photovoltaic modules performance degradation are poorly understood, but it is well known that water vapour is deeply implicated in the degradation process. Indeed, some layers and interfaces of thin film modules can be moisture sensitive and depending on the processing conditions, they degrade after exposure to damp heat conditions (85°C, 85% relative humidity) . Transparent conductive oxides (TCO), as used in CIGS or thin silicon film cells play a particular role linked to reliability issues. We showed recently that low-pressure chemical vapour deposition zinc oxide (LPCVD ZnO) can withstand damp heat test even without encapsulant providing doping of the ZnO is high enough, though this is unfavourable for free carrier absorption (reduction of spectral response in the infrared part) . Reduction of doping leads to improved optical properties but needs therefore an optimized encapsulation strategy to avoid the deterioration of the TCO conductivity. In previous work, the degradation of LPCVD ZnO used in thin-film silicon solar cells was investigated . It was shown that the decrease of the ZnO conductivity was essentially due to the humidity increasing inside the encapsulant. However other effects take part in the degradation process and remained yet unexplained. In this paper we will report on several other possible sources of degradation, which have been identified. In order to demonstrate and quantify these effects, we used various encapsulants, but without back protection (foil or glass), and we exposed the samples to different type of atmospheres. The resistivity of the ZnO was monitored using an inductive contactless and a four points probe methods. Finally, schemes to perform highly reliable laminates when using lightly doped ZnO are proposed.