Infoscience

Thesis

Advanced Architectures and Processing for High-Efficiency Silicon Heterojunction Solar Cells

Crystalline silicon solar cells currently represent the largest part of the photovoltaic market. In response to the demand for higher efficiency devices, silicon heterojunction technology, which merges a crystalline silicon wafer with thin amorphous silicon (a-Si:H) films enabling the achievement of passivating contacts, may be considered as one of the most promising approaches for the next generation of industrial solar cells. These cells demonstrate record energy conversion efficiency enabled by excellent surface passivation leading to open-circuit voltages close to the theoretical limit. Despite the remarkable electronic properties of a-Si:H, its narrow bandgap induces significant parasitic light absorption. The aim of this thesis is to mitigate this loss through novel cell architectures and new fabrication processes. The outcome of this work is four-fold: First, a new silicon heterojunction solar cell structure is investigated that decouples the optical and electrical properties of the window layers through localized front contacts. By using shadow masking for the film patterning, we demonstrate the feasibility of the new cell structure under the condition that a sufficiently high contact coverage be maintained. Second, for the patterning of a-Si:H layers, we develop a hydrogen plasma etching technique carried out in a PECVD reactor. In particular, we show that a critical thickness of the intrinsic a-Si:H layer is needed to provide sufficient shielding of the amorphous/ crystalline interface to ensure good passivation. This technique enables the patterning of a-Si:H layers with nanometric accuracy while preserving the surface passivation. A third important outcome of this thesis is the replacement of the front metallization¿usually made by screen-printing of a silver paste¿with a copper front grid formed by electrodeposition. To ensure sufficient adhesion of the metallic fingers, a first process based on a double electrodeposition of a nickel/copper stack is presented. Important improvements in light management are realized with this metallization scheme, reducing the finger width from 70 um to 15 um which leads to a short-circuit gain of 1.1 mA cm2. In a second step, a simplified process based on a copper seed layer is proposed, further improving the metallization adhesion and making this technique compatible with chemically sensitive transparent conductive oxides such as zinc-oxide-based materials. The fourth outcome of this work is the replacement of the p-doped a-Si:H hole collector with a highly transparent molybdenum oxide (MoOx) film. We show that this material is an efficient hole collector if the post-deposition processes are carried out below 130 °C. From an optical point of view, this layer enables an improvement equivalent to 0.8 mA cm2 of the cell¿s response in the blue part of the spectrum. Nevertheless, this gain is reduced by the modification of the MoOx film induced during the TCO sputtering process, which leads to broadband parasitic light absorption. Finally, by merging this MoOx hole collector with the electrodeposited copper front metallization, remarkable fill factors of 80.3% are obtained leading to a certified efficiency of 22.5% for a 4 cm2 solar cell.

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