Thin film silicon solar cell technology frequently makes use of rough or textured surfaces in order to enhance light absorption within the thin absorber layers by scattering and total internal reflection (“light trapping”). The rough morphology of the optically functional internal surfaces both in superstrate and substrate cells however, not only has a beneficial effect on light scattering properties, but on the other hand may also have deleterious effects on the microscopic structure of the deposited layers, in particular if these layers are nanocrystalline. The narrow valleys in the surface morphology may lead to structural defects, such as cavities and pinholes. By adjusting the morphology, these defects can be avoided.
However, even when structural defects in layers directly deposited on rough interfaces are avoided, the obtained optically defined maximum current density is still much lower than expected. For instance, in n-i-p structures the rough interface (the textured back reflector consisting of nanostructured Ag coated with ZnO) is located at the back of the cell, where only long wavelength light is present. The natively textured Ag film is sputtered at elevated temperature and optimized for diffusely reflecting this long wavelength light. From experiments we infer that the nanostructured metallic surface also gives rise to plasmon absorption in the red and near IR, and that this leads to a parasitic absorption, i.e. at least part of the absorbed energy is not re-emitted to the active layers.