Passivating contacts for homojunction solar cells using a-Si:H/c-Si hetero-interfaces

Crystalline silicon (c-Si) homojunction solar cells account for over 90% of the current photovoltaic market. However, further progress of this technology is limited by recombinative losses occurring at their metal-semiconductor contacts. The goal of this thesis is to develop passivating contacts to resolve this issue. The novel idea presented in this work is to insert an ultra-thin wide bandgap semiconductor-hydrogenated amorphous silicon (a-Si:H)-film underneath the metal to passivate the doped c-Si surface and suppress the recombination of minority charge carriers. Simultaneously, this layer should provide a contact to the metal allowing majority charge carrier transport. A transparent conductive oxide is additionally inserted between the a-Si:H layer and the metal to ensure efficient carrier collection. This concept is inspired by the silicon heterojunction solar cells, a technology characterized by extremely high open-circuit voltages. The development of these new passivating contacts requires two features: a homojunction, for charge separation, and a silicon heterojunction contact for improved passivation. In this thesis, we explicitly focus on large-area thin-film deposition technology for fabrication of our devices, guaranteeing the scalability of our findings. The main results of this thesis are then threefold. First, we show that, using low-temperature plasma enhanced chemical vapor deposition, a doped homo-epitaxial layer can be deposited to form the homojunction. Second, we develop passivating contacts and optimize them in silicon heterojunction solar cells. An in-depth analysis of the contact formation is provided, including a detailed investigation of the relevant interfaces in our proposed structure. Finally, combining these two technologies, we demonstrate a proof-of-concept for these passivating contacts. Highly doped phosphorus- and boron-doped c-Si surfaces are shown to be efficiently passivated by a-Si:H layers and a lower contact resistivity is obtained for our optimized passivating contacts on such doped surfaces compared to a heterojunction contact on lightly doped surfaces. We show that homojunction solar cells on diffused and ion-implanted wafers featuring such passivating contacts (called homo-hetero cells hereinafter) yield improved open-circuit voltages compared to conventional homojunction solar cells, due to reduction of recombination losses. Additionally, the temperature coefficient of such homo-hetero solar cells is lower. With these advantages, the homo-hetero solar cells outperform homojunction solar cells when operating at a cell temperature above 60 °C. This work contributes to the research and development of high-efficiency silicon solar cells by providing new insights on the properties of contact formation and a novel contact-type.

Ballif, Christophe
De Wolf, Stefaan
Lausanne, EPFL
Other identifiers:
urn: urn:nbn:ch:bel-epfl-thesis6392-3

 Record created 2014-10-21, last modified 2018-12-05

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