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We present optical properties and microstructure analyses of hydrogenated silicon suboxide layers containing silicon nanocrystals (nc-SiOx:H). This material is especially adapted for the use as intermediate reflecting layer (IRL) in micromorph silicon tandem cells due to its low refractive index and relatively high transverse conductivity. The nc-SiOx:H is deposited by very high frequency plasma enhanced chemical vapor deposition from a SiH4/CO2/H2/PH3 gas mixture. We show the influence of H2/SiH4 and CO2/SiH4 gas ratios on the layer properties as well as on the micromorph cell when the nc-SiOx:H is used as IRL. The lowest refractive index achieved in a working micromoph cell is 1.71 and the highest initial micromoph efficiency with such an IRL is 13.3 %.
Growth dynamics and microstructure of thin-film silicon simulated by a 3D dynamical numerical model are investigated. The model, recently introduced, is characterized here with its phase diagram. It reproduces the main features of the growth and microstructure of thin film silicon: amorphous to crystalline phase transition, conical/columnar shape of the conglomerates of nanocrystals, surface roughness evolution of the layer. It is observed that preferential etching of the amorphous silicon is sufficient to reproduce qualitatively the surface evolution observed experimentally. In the presence of preferential etching, nucleation of the microcrystalline phase in the simulated layers always coincides with a surface roughness increase as observed experimentally. This model opens new perspectives for the simulation of thin-film microstructure and surface morphology.
Amorphous silicon single-junction p-i-n and Micromorph tandem solar cells are deposited in KAI-M reactors on in-house developed LPCVD ZnO front TCO's. An a-Si:H p-i-n cell with a stabilized efficiency of 10.09 % on 1 cm2 has been independently confirmed by NREL. An alternative ZnO/a-Si:H cell process with an intrinsic absorber of only 180 nm has reached 10.06 % NREL confirmed stabilized efficiencies as well. Up-scaling of such thin cells to 10x10 cm2 mini-modules has led to an aperture module efficiency of stabilized 9.20 ± 0.19 % as well independently confirmed by ESTI of JRC Ispra.
Micromorph tandem cells with stabilized efficiencies of 11.0% have been achieved on as-grown LPCVD ZnO front TCO at bottom cell thickness of just 1.3 μm in combination with the in-house developed AR concept. Applying an advanced LPCVD ZnO front TCO stabilized tandem cells of 10.6 % have been realized at a bottom cell thickness of only 0.8 μm. Implementing in-situ intermediate reflectors in Micromorph tandems on LPCVD ZnO reached in a stabilized cell efficiency of 11.3% with a bottom cell thickness of 1.6 μm.
The growth of thin-film silicon close to the amorphous/microcrystalline transition is qualitatively described by a 3D - discrete dynamical growth model on a cubic lattice. The result of this simulation is a representation of the microstructure of the layer as a function of time, i.e. computer-generated animations of growing microcrystalline silicon layers. It permits to follow the evolution of the nucleation and of the growth of the crystalline phase, the surface roughness, the average crystalline volume fraction and the void volume fraction. In these computer simulations, the effects of the substrate surface morphology and of the distribution of particles incidence angle have been studied.
Comparison between simulated normal and isotropic incidence on structured substrates indicates that, under microcrystalline growth conditions, shadowing effects lead to the occurrence of cracks in the simulated microstructure. These effects are also evidenced experimentally in the case of μc-Si:H silicon layers deposited by very high frequency plasma-enhanced chemical vapour deposition (VHF-PECVD) on periodic and random nanostructured substrates.
Growth of intrinsic micro-crystalline silicon layers by means of VHF-PECVD, assisted by remote microwave (MW) plasma has been investigated. The aim of the MW plasma is to enhance the deposition rate by introducing excited hydrogen and Ar atoms from the MW plasma in the VHF deposition zone. For this purpose a remote microwave plasma source was constructed in which a H2/Ar plasma is generated in a 20 mm diameter quartz tube. A gasshower has been constructed for homogeneous distribution of the flow of excited gas species from the microwave source into the deposition zone of the VHF-PECVD reactor where the dissociation of silane takes place. In a first series of experiments we applied high microwave power (< 500 W) and pure hydrogen in the MW source. This resulted in a larger deposition rate, but all layers – even grown at low silane concentrations – were amorphous and had a high oxygen content. The oxygen contamination was partly due to reduction of the quartz tube by the hydrogen plasma. In a second series of experiments Ar dilution and reduced MW power were used to eliminate the effect of etching of the tube by the microwave hydrogen plasma. In this series of experiments an increase of the growth rate of micro-crystalline silicon by about 15 % due to assistance of the microwave plasma was found. Optical emission spectroscopy indicates that – in these experiments – the main mechanism for the increased dissociation of silane is through molecular quenching reaction of Ar* metastables.
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