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In this paper we present results on the use of multilayered a-SiC:H heterostructures as an integrated device for simultaneous wavelength-division demultiplexing and measurement of optical signals. These devices are useful in optical communications applications that use the wavelength division multiplexing technique to encode multiple signals into the same transmission medium.
The device is composed of two stacked p-i-n photodiodes, both optimized for the selective collection of photo generated carriers. Band gap engineering was used to adjust the photogeneration and recombination rates profiles of the intrinsic absorber regions of each photodiode to short and long wavelength absorption and carrier collection in the visible spectrum. The generated photocurrent signal using different input optical channels was analyzed at reverse and forward bias and under steady state illumination. A demux algorithm based on the voltage controlled sensitivity of the device was proposed and tested. An electrical model of the WDM device is presented and supported by the solution of the respective circuit equations. Other possible applications of the device in optical communication systems are also proposed.
We report our progress toward high-performance hydrogenated amorphous silicon (a-Si:H) solar cells fabricated in NREL's newly installed multi-chamber film Si deposition system. The a-Si:H layers are made by standard radio frequency plasma-enhanced chemical vapor deposition. This system produces a-Si:H p-i-n single-junction devices on Asahi U-type transparent conducting oxide glass with >10% initial efficiency. The importance of the p-layer to the cell is identified: it plays a critical role in further improving cell performance. Our optimization process involves changing p-layer parameters such as dopant levels, bandgap, and thickness in cells as well as applying a double p-layer. With the optimized p-layer, we are able to increase the fill factor of our cells to as high as 72% while maintaining high open-circuit voltage.
The conductivity of amorphous/nanocrystalline hydrogenated silicon thin films (a/nc-Si:H) deposited in a dual chamber co-deposition system exhibits a non-monotonic dependence on the nanocrystal concentration. Optical absorption measurements derived from the constant photocurrent method (CPM) and preliminary electron spin resonance (ESR) data for similarly prepared materials are reported. The optical absorption spectra, in particular the subgap absorption, are found to be independent of nanocrystalline density for relatively small crystal fractions (< 4%). For films with a higher crystalline content, the absorption spectra indicate broader Urbach slopes and higher midgap absorption. The ESR spectra show an approximately constant defect density across all of the films. These data are interpreted in terms of a model involving electron donation from the nanocrystals into the amorphous material.
Optical, electrical and structural properties of silicon films depending on hydrogen flow rate (RH), substrate temperature (TS), and deposition pressure (PD) were investigated. By decreasing RH and increasing TS and PD, the optical band gap (Eopt) of silicon thin films drastically declined from 1.8 to 1.63 eV without a big deterioration in electrical properties. We employed all the investigated Si thin films for p-i-n structured solar cells as absorbers with i-layer thickness of 300 nm. From the measurement of solar cell performances, it was clearly observed that spectral response in long wavelength was enhanced as Eopt of absorber layers decreased. Using the solar cell whose Eopt of i-layer was 1.65 eV, the highest QE at long wavelength with the short circuit current density (Jsc) of 16.34 mA/cm2 was achieved, and open circuit voltage (Voc), fill factor (FF), and conversion efficiency (η) were 0.66 V, 0.57, and 6.13%, respectively.
We describe our efforts to control the grain boundary alignment in polycrystalline thin films of silicon by using a biaxially textured template layer of CaF2 for photovoltaic device applications. We have chosen CaF2 as a candidate material due to its close lattice match with silicon and its suitability as an ion beam assisted deposition (IBAD) material. We show that the CaF2 aligns biaxially at a thickness of ~10 nm and, with the addition of an epitaxial CaF2 layer, has an in-plane texture of ~15°. Deposition of a subsequent layer of Si aligns on the template layer with an in-plane texture of 10.8°. The additional improvement of in-plane texture is similar to the behavior observed in more fully characterized IBAD materials systems. A germanium buffer layer is used to assist in the epitaxial deposition of Si on CaF2 template layers and single crystal substrates. These experiments confirm that an IBAD template can be used to biaxially orient polycrystalline Si.
We report on a direct comparison of the effect of the atmospheric contaminants on a-Si:H and μc-Si:H p-i-n solar cells deposited by plasma-enhanced chemical vapor deposition (PECVD) at 13.56 MHz. Nitrogen and oxygen were inserted by two types of controllable contamination sources: (i) directly into the plasma through a leak at the deposition chamber wall or (ii) into the process gas supply line. Similar critical concentrations in the range of 4-6×1018 cm-3 for nitrogen and 1.2-5×1019 cm-3 for oxygen were observed for both a-Si:H and μc-Si:H cells for the chamber wall leak. Above these critical concentrations the solar cell efficiency decreases for a-Si:H solar cells due to losses in the fill factor under red light illumination (FFred). For μc-Si:H cells the losses in FFred and in short-circuit current density deteriorate the device performance. Only for a-Si:H the critical oxygen concentration is found to depend on the contamination source. Conductivity measurements suggest that at the critical oxygen concentration the Fermi level is located about 0.05 eV above midgap for both a-Si:H and μc-Si:H.
The Seebeck coefficient and dark conductivity for undoped, and n-type doped thin film hydrogenated amorphous silicon (a-Si:H), and mixed-phase films with silicon nanocrystalline inclusions (a/nc-Si:H) are reported. For both undoped a-Si:H and undoped a/nc-Si:H films, the dark conductivity is enhanced by the addition of silicon nanocrystals. The thermopower of the undoped a/nc-Si:H has a lower Seebeck coefficient, and similar temperature dependence, to that observed for undoped a-Si:H. In contrast, the addition of nanoparticles in doped a/nc-Si:H thin films leads to a negative Seebeck coefficient (consistent with n-type doping) with a positive temperature dependence, that is, the Seebeck coefficient becomes larger at higher temperatures. The temperature dependence of the thermopower of the doped a/nc-Si:H is similar to that observed in unhydrogenated a-Si grown by sputtering or following high-temperature annealing of a-Si:H, suggesting that charge transport may occur via hopping in these materials.
Photon management is one of the key issues for improving the performance of thin-film silicon solar cells. An important part of the photon management is light trapping that helps to confine photons inside the thin absorber layers. At present light trapping is accomplished by the employment of the refractive-index matching layers at the front side and the high-reflective layers at the back contact of the solar cells and scattering of light at randomly surface-textured interfaces. In this article key issues and potential of light management in thin-film silicon solar cells are addressed. Novel approaches for light trapping are presented such as i) surface textures based on periodic diffraction gratings and modulated surface morphologies for enhanced scattering and anti-reflection, ii) metal nano-particles introducing plasmonic scattering, and iii) one-dimensional photonic-crystal-like structures for back reflectors.
Silicon-on-insulator (SOI) regions have been grown on lithographically predetermined positions by Al-mediated Solid-Phase Epitaxy (SPE) of amorphous silicon (α-Si). A controllable Si lateral overgrowth is induced from windows formed in silicon dioxide (SiO2) to the crystalline Si substrate. The resulting hundred of-nanometer large areas of high-quality monocrystalline SOI are formed at the temperatures that can be as low as 400 °C. The as-obtained SOI regions were found to take on the same crystal orientation as the (100) Si substrate and have the ability to merge seamlessly over the oxide.
We will describe the development and application of n-type microcrystalline silicon oxide (μc-SiOx:H) alloys as window layers in thin film silicon solar cells with microcrystalline silicon (μc-Si:H) absorber layers. Cells are prepared in n–i–p deposition sequence with illumination through the n-side. The layers were deposited by radio-frequency plasma enhanced chemical vapour deposition (RF-PECVD) at 185°C substrate temperature, using a mixture of phosphine (PH3), silane (SiH4), carbon dioxide (CO2) and hydrogen (H2) gases, at CO2 flows varied between 0.5 and 2 sccm and different thickness. Films were characterised by dark conductivity measurements, Photothermal Deflection Spectroscopy (PDS) and Raman spectroscopy to evaluate optical band gap E04, refractive index n and crystallinity ICRS, respectively. The results were compared with the data of alternative optimised window layers, such as n-type μc-Si:H and silicon carbide (μc-SiC:H) films. Also solar cells with conventional illumination through the p-side window were investigated for comparison. Solar cells were prepared with μc-SiOx:H n-layers of varied compositions and characterised by current-voltage (J-V) measurements under AM 1.5 illumination (and also under modified AM 1.5 illumination with red (OG590) and blue (OG7) filters) and reflectance measurements. The effects of the μc-SiOx n-layer composition and thickness on the performance of n-i-p cells were investigated and correlated with the optical, electrical and structural properties of the μc-SiOx:H n-layers. The results indicate that n-type μc-SiOx:H provides a sufficient combination of conductivity (up to 0.1 S/cm) and crystallinity (ICRS up to 30%) to function well as a doped layer for the internal electric field and the carrier transport and as a nucleation layer for the growth of the μc-Si:H i-layer. As a window layer, it also results in an enhanced spectral response, particularly in the long wavelength part of the spectrum of the solar cells, in comparison with the cells containing alternative window layers. An improved short circuit current density (Jsc) can be attributed to the wide optical gap E04 (around 2.3 eV) in the μc-SiOx:H window layers and reduced reflection in the long wavelength region of the spectrum. A minimum total reflectance of only 6% at 570nm wavelength was achieved with such μc-SiOx:H window layers. Using optimised n-type μc-SiOx:H as a window layer, an efficiency of 8.0% for 1cm2 cell area was achieved with 1 μm thick μc-Si:H absorber layer and Ag back reflector.
A multi-pressure microwave plasma source is developed and is applied for the fast deposition of crystalline silicon films. In this paper, the plasma source is diagnosed firstly. Electron density, electron temperature and discharge gas temperature of the plasmas generated in ambient air are studied using optical emission spectroscopy (OES) method. By using the high density microwave plasma source, depositions of crystalline silicon films from SiH4+He mixture at reduced pressure conditions are investigated systematically. After optimizing the film deposition conditions, highly crystallized Si films are deposited at a rate higher than 700 nm/s. We also find that the deposited films are fully crystallized and crystalline structure of the deposited film evolves along the film growth direction, i.e. large grains in surface region while small grains in the bottom region of the film. Based on the observed results, a possible mechanism, the annealing-assisted plasma-enhanced chemical vapor deposition, is proposed to describe the film growth process.
A novel light trapping technique for solar cells is based on light scattering by metal nanoparticles through excitation of localized surface plasmons. We investigated the effect of metal nanoparticles embedded inside the absorber layer of amorphous silicon solar cells on the cell performance. The position of the particles inside the absorber layer was varied. Transmission electron microscopy images of the cell devices showed well defined silver nanoparticles, indicating that they survive the embedding procedure. The optical absorption of samples where the silver nanoparticles were embedded in thin amorphous silicon layer showed an enhancement peak around the plasmon resonance of 800 nm. The embedded particles significantly reduce the performance of the fabricated devices. We attribute this to the recombination of photogenerated charge carriers in the absorber layer induced by the presence of the silver nanoparticles. Finally we demonstrate that the fabricated solar cells exhibit tandem-like behavior where the silver nanoparticles separate the absorber layer into a top and bottom part.
We have used small-angle x-ray scattering (SAXS) in conjunction with X-ray diffraction (XRD) to study the nanostructure of hydrogenated nanocrystalline silicon (nc-Si:H). The crystallite size in the growth direction, as deduced from XRD data, is 24 nm with a preferred  orientation in the growth direction of the film. Fitting the SAXS intensity shows that the scattering derives from electron density fluctuations of both voids in the amorphous phase and H-rich clusters in the film, probably at the crystallite interfaces. The SAXS results indicate ellipsoidal shaped crystallites about 6 nm in size perpendicular to the growth direction. We annealed the samples, stepwise, and then measured the SAXS and ESR. At temperatures below 350◦C, we observe an overall increase in the size of the scattering centers on annealing but only a small change in the spin density, which suggests that bond reconstruction on the crystallite surfaces takes place with high efficacy.
A thermally evaporated p-type amorphous tungsten oxide (p-a-WO3) film was introduced as a novel buffer layer between SnO2 and p-type amorphous silicon carbide (p-a-SiC) of pin-type amorphous silicon (a-Si) based solar cells. By using this film, a-Si solar cells with a p-a-WO3/p-a-SiC double p-layer structure were fabricated and the cell photovoltaic characteristics were investigated as a function of p-a-WO3 layer thickness. By inserting a 2 nm-thick p-a-WO3 layer between SnO2 and a 6 nm-thick p-a-SiC layer, the short circuit current density increased from 9.73 to 10.57 mA/cm2, and the conversion efficiency was enhanced from 5.17 % to 5.98 %.
This paper presents the formation and the characterization of silicon germanium oxide (SixGeyO1-x-y) infrared sensitive material for uncooled microbolometers. RF magnetron sputtering was used to simultaneously deposit Si and Ge thin films in an Ar/O2 environment at room temperature. The effects of varying Si and O composition on the thin film's electrical properties which include temperature coefficient of resistance (TCR) and resistivity were investigated. The highest achieved TCR and the corresponding resistivity at room temperature were -5.41 %/K and 3.16×103 ohm cm using Si0.039Ge0.875O0.086 for films deposited at room temperature.
We report recent progress on hydrogenated nanocrystalline silicon (nc-Si:H) solar cells prepared at different deposition rates. The nc-Si:H intrinsic layer was deposited, using a modified very high frequency (MVHF) glow discharge technique, on Ag/ZnO back reflectors (BRs). The nc-Si:H material quality, especially the evolution of the nanocrystallites, was optimized using hydrogen dilution profiling. First, an initial active-area efficiency of 10.2% was achieved in a nc-Si:H single-junction cell deposited at ~5 Å/s. Using the improved nc-Si:H cell, we obtained 14.5% initial and 13.5% stable active-area efficiencies in an a-Si:H/nc-Si:H/nc-Si:H triple-junction structure. Second, we achieved a stabilized total-area efficiency of 12.5% using the same triple-junction structure but with nc-Si:H deposited at ~10 Å/s; the efficiency was measured at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). Third, we developed a recipe using a shorter deposition time and obtained initial 13.0% and stable 12.7% active-area efficiencies for the same triple-junction design.
Tritiated amorphous and crystalline silicon is prepared by exposing silicon samples to tritium gas (T2) at various pressures and temperatures. Total tritium content and tritium concentration depth profiles in the tritiated samples are obtained using thermal effusion and Secondary Ion Mass Spectroscopy (SIMS) measurements. The results indicate that tritium incorporation is a function of the material microstructure rather than the tritium exposure condition. The highest tritium concentration attained in the amorphous silicon is about 20 at.% on average with a penetration depth of about 50 nm. In contrast, the tritium occluded in the c-Si is about 4 at.% with a penetration depth of about 10 nm. The tritium concentration observed in a-Si:H and c-Si is higher than reported results from post-hydrogenation experiments. The beta irradiation appears to catalyze the tritiation process and enhance the tritium dissolution in silicon material.
Solid Phase Epitaxial Regrowth (SPER) is of great technological importance in semiconductor device fabrication. A better understanding and accurately modeling of its behavior are vital to the design of fabrication processes and the improvement of the device performance. In this paper, SPER was modeled by Molecular Dynamics (MD) with Tersoff potential. Extensive MD simulations were conducted to study the dependence of SPER rate on growth orientation and uniaxial stress. The results were compared with experimental data. It was concluded that MD with Tersoff potential can qualitively describe the SPER process. For a more quantitatively accurate model, a better interatomic potential are needed.
In this paper a double pi'n/pin a-SiC:H voltage and optical bias controlled device is presented and it behavior as image and color sensor, optical amplifier and multiplex/demultiplex device discussed. The sensing element structure (single or tandem) and the light source properties (wavelength, intensity and frequency) are correlated with the sensor output characteristics (light-to-dark sensivity, resolution, linearity, bit rate and S/N ratio). Depending on the application, different readout techniques are used. When a low power monochromatic scanner readout the generated carriers the transducer recognize a color pattern projected on it acting as a color and image sensor. Scan speeds up to 104 lines per second are achieved without degradation in the resolution. If the photocurrent generated by different monochromatic pulsed channels is readout directly, the information is multiplexed or demultiplexed. It is possible to decode the information from three simultaneous color channels without bit errors at bit rates per channel higher than 4000bps. Finally, when triggered by appropriated light, it can amplify or suppress the generated photocurrent working as an optical amplifier. An electrical model is presented to support the sensing methodologies. Experimental and simulated results show that the tandem devices act as charge transfer systems. They filter, store, amplify and transport the photogenerated carriers, keeping its memory (color, intensity and frequency) without adding any optical pre-amplifier or optical filter as in the standard p-i-n cells.
In this work, we study the replication of nanotextures used in thin film silicon solar cells to enhance light trapping onto inexpensive substrates such as glass or polyethylene naphtalate (PEN). Morphological analysis was carried out to asses the quality of these replicas. Moreover, single and tandem a-Si:H solar cells were deposited on top of the master and replica structures to verify their suitability to be used as substrates for solar cells in n-i-p configuration. We find stabilized efficiencies around 8% which are similar for tandem cells on masters and PEN replicas.