Defect passivation in zinc tin oxide: improving the transparency-conductivity trade-off and comparing with indium-based materials

Transparent conductive oxides (TCOs) are essential in technologies coupling light and electricity. Due to their good optoelectronic properties and the production scalability, Sn-doped indium oxide (In2O3:Sn) is the preferred TCO in industrial applications. Nonetheless indium is scarce in the Earth's crust and its availability might be compromised over the next decades. To address this issue, this doctoral project aims to (i) improve the optoelectronic properties of In-free TCOs seeking to match those of In2O3:Sn, and (ii) refine the optoelectronic properties of In2O3-based films to decrease the In consumption in applications. To accomplish this, we investigated the links between the defects, the microstructure and the optoelectronic properties of two families of TCOs, indium- and tin-based oxides. First, we studied the evolution in the optoelectronic properties and microstructure of amorphous zinc tin oxide (a-ZTO) when annealed up to 500C in oxidizing, neutral, and reducing atmospheres. We show that annealing in atmospheric pressure at temperatures > 300C decreases the detrimental subgap absorptance while increasing the electron mobility (mu). Thermal treatments in reducing atmospheres increase the free-carrier density (Ne) and the subgap absorptance. None of the thermal treatments resulted in important changes in the amorphous microstructure. Combining these results and density functional theory (DFT) calculations, oxygen deficiencies (VO) were identified as the source of detrimental subgap absorption. VO can act as donors but also as electron scattering centres. Based on these results, a-ZTO with Ό up to 35 cm2/Vs, is demonstrated by high-temperature defect passivation. Profiting from the microstructure stability of a-ZTO, this material was used as a recombination junction in a tandem solar cell which require a high-temperature step in its processing. The passivation scheme might be problematic for temperature-sensitive technologies. Therefore, we demonstrated an alternative low-temperature passivation method, which relies on co-sputtering a-ZTO with SiO2 . Using two Sn-based oxides with different composition and microstructure: a-ZTO and SnO2 , and results of DFT calculations, we demonstrate that SiO2 contribution is twofold. (i) The oxygen from SiO2 passivate the VO in SnO2 and a-ZTO. (ii) The formation energy of the ionized VO is lowered by the silicon-atoms, enabling defects that do not contribute to the subgap absorptance. This passivation scheme improves the optical properties without affecting the electrical conductivity, overcoming the optoelectronic trade-off in Sn-based TCOs. Finally, we study an In-based high-Ό TCO: Zr-doped In2O3. Films of In2O3:Zr with thickness from 15 nm-100 nm were sputtered in the amorphous state and annealed in different atmospheres. Annealing in air yields fully crystalline films with high transparency and a high-mu limited by phonon and ionized impurity scattering. 15 nm-thick films exhibit an average absorptance of < 0.5 % (between 390 nm-2000 nm) and an mu of 50 cm2/Vs increasing to 105 cm2/Vs for 100 nm-thick films. Alternatively, annealing in a neutral or reducing atmospheres result in higher mu for films thinner than 50 nm as a high Ne is maintained. The demonstration of thickness reduction while keeping high lateral mu makes In2O3:Zr is an alternative to reduce In in applications such as flexible displays, solar cells and light emitting diodes.


Advisor(s):
Ballif, Christophe
Morales Masis, Monica
Year:
2019
Publisher:
Lausanne, EPFL
Keywords:
Laboratories:
PV-LAB




 Record created 2019-02-04, last modified 2019-06-17

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