In this paper we report on our work using in-situ real time spectroscopic ellipsometry (RTSE) to study the dynamics of hot-wire chemical vapor deposition (HWCVD) of hydrogenated amorphous silicon (a-Si:H) and epitaxial crystal silicon (epi-Si) for photovoltaic applications. We utilize RTSE as both an in-situ diagnostic and a postgrowth analysis tool for a-Si:H/crystalline silicon heterojunction (SHJ) solar cells and epi-silicon films grown by HWCVD. RTSE enables precise thickness control of the 3 to 10 nm thick layers used in the SHJ devices, as well as monitoring crystallinity and surface roughness in real time. With the assistance of in-situ RTSE feedback we have achieved a photovoltaic energy conversion efficiency of 17% on an Al-backed p-type float-zone c-Si wafer. Open-circuit voltages above 650 mV indicate excellent passivation of the c-Si surface by the a-Si:H intrinsic layer. We have used RTSE to obtain information on the degree of crystallinity and the electronic and optical properties of films as a function of deposition conditions. RTSE has indirectly indicated the persistence of a hydrogen layer at the interface between the a-Si:H layer and the crystal silicon substrate. Absorption spectra determined by RTSE have provided guidance in device optimization.
We are also applying in-situ RTSE to study the dynamics of HWCVD growth of epi-Si. The goal of this work is to develop low-temperature methods for growing 2-10 μmthick layers of c-Si on c-Si seed layers on glass for solar cell applications. This study presents unique challenges for RTSE, as perfect epitaxial growth of c-Si on a c-Si wafer would produce no change at all in the RTSE spectra. We have found that by monitoring the pseudo-dielectric function in real time during growth we gain immediate feedback on the breakdown of epi-Si growth. Post-deposition analysis of the RTSE data provides quantitative information on the percent of c-Si and a-Si versus film thickness. The RTSE analysis has been confirmed by cross sectional TEM. Based on the rapid feedback provided by RTSE we have surpassed the previous HWCVD maxiumum of 200 nm of epi-Si growth, achieving a maximum thickness of 500 nm of epi-Si. TEM analysis has shown that micron-sized areas of these films achieve 1000 nm of epi-Si thickness.