Passivation, conductivity, and selectivity in solar cell contacts: Concepts and simulations based on a unified partial-resistances framework

Passivation, conductivity, and selectivity are often acknowledged as the three requirements for optimal contacts to photovoltaic solar cells. Although there are generally accepted definitions and metrics for passivation and conductivity, a common understanding of the concept of selectivity is emerging only now. In this contribution, we present a generalized model of solar cell contacts based on the distinct lumped resistances encountered by electrons and holes traversing a contact, which we refer to as partial specific contact resistances. The relations between electron and hole partial current densities, quasi-Fermi level separation, and external voltage are derived from these partial specific contact resistances, leading to simple metrics for the aforementioned contact properties: the sum of the electron and hole resistances is a metric for passivation, their ratio is a metric for selectivity, and the majority-carrier resistance is a metric for conductivity. Using PC1D, we validate our model by simulating 10 500 cases of homojunction contacts to crystalline silicon solar cells, although our framework is material agnostic and can be equally applied to any other type of absorber. In these simulations, the hole contact and absorber are assumed to be ideal, whereas we vary the partial specific contact resistances in the electron contact by orders of magnitude by adjusting the electron and hole mobilities, their densities (through variations of the donor doping density), and the contact thickness. The simulations confirm the finding of the model that, when the contact fraction cannot be adjusted—as is the case with full-area contacts—combined passivation and conductivity are necessary and sufficient for optimal solar cell performance, and they imply selectivity. However, the reciprocal is not true: contacts can be selective but lack conductivity—causing a deleterious drop in fill factor—or can be selective but provide poor passivation—leading to a reduction in implied open-circuit voltage and, hence, actual open-circuit voltage. Thus, selectivity is a meaningful metric in the sole case of partial-area contacts, where the contact fraction can be adjusted arbitrarily.

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Journal of Applied Physics, 126, 18, 183103
Nov 11 2019
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 Record created 2019-11-12, last modified 2020-10-29

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