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The unique properties of silicon oxide materials, no matter intrinsic or doped, utilized in thin film solar cells (TFSCs) in the area of photovoltaic (PV) are making TFSCs one of the most attractive photovoltaic technologies for the development of high-performing electricity production units to be integrated in everyday life. In comparison to other silicon materials, the particular diphasic structure of silicon oxide materials, in which hydrogenated microcrystalline silicon (μc-Si:H) crystallites are surrounded by an oxygen-rich hydrogenated amorphous silicon (a-Si:H) phase, causes them present excellent photoelectrical material properties, such as a low-parasitic absorption in the broadband spectral range, independent controllability of longitudinal and lateral conductivity, refractive indices (3.5-2.0), band gap (2.0-2.6 eV) and conductivity tenability (with orders of 1-10-9 S/cm) with oxygen doping, and so on. Various types of silicon oxide materials, including intrinsic, p- or n- type, further applied in TFSCs have also played significant roles in improving the efficiency of various types of single-, dual-, and triple-junction thin-film solar cells from both the optical and electrical points of view. In this paper, we present our latest progress in studying the performance improvement role of intrinsic or doped silicon oxide materials in pin-type a-Si:H, a-SiGe:H, and μc-Si:H single-junction solar cells. By effectively tuning the band gap values of intrinsic a-SiOx:H materials with oxygen doping and adopting the layers with a suitable band gap (1.86 eV) as the P/I buffer layers of a-Si:H solar cells fabricated on metal organic chemical vapor deposition (MOCVD) boron-doped zinc oxide (ZnO:B) substrates, a significant Voc increases up to 909 mV and an excellent external quantum efficiency (EQE) response of 75% at the 400 nm typical wavelength can be achieved by matching the band gap discontinuity between the p-type nc-SiOx:H window and a-Si:H intrinsic layers. The serious leakage current characteristics of pin-type narrow-gap (Eg<1.5 eV) a-SiGe:H single-junction solar cells can also be finely tuned by integrating an n-type μc-SiOx:H layer with a small oxygen content in addition to improving the long-wavelength response, an effective approach gives rise to the highest FF of 70.62% for pin-type a-SiGe:H single-junction solar cells with an average band gap of 1.48 eV. In addition, our studies proved that the application of p-type μc-SiOx:H window layers in μc-Si:H single-junction solar cells can effectively improve the short-wavelength light coupling by suppressing the parasitic absorption and promoting the anti-reflectivity with a graded refractive index profile. On the basis of the optimum single-junction solar cells with omnipotent silicon oxide materials, an initial efficiency of 16.07% has been achieved for pin-type a-Si:H/a-SiGe:H/μc-Si:H triple-junction solar cells with an active area of 0.25 cm2. The omnipotent properties of silicon oxide layers in TFSCs, including effective optical coupling and trapping, suitability in compensating for the band gap discontinuity, the shunt-quenching capacity, and so on, make them likely to be extended to other types of solar cells such as polycrystalline chalcopyrite Cu(In,Ga)Se2 (CIGS) and perovskite-sensitized solar cells, opening up new opportunities for acquiring solar cells with higher performance.
This paper reviews our research progresses of hydrogenated amorphous silicon (a-Si:H) and microcrystalline (μc-Si:H) based thin film solar cells. It coves the three areas of high efficiency, low cost process, and large-area proto-type multi-chamber system design and solar module deposition. With an innovative VHF power profiling technique, we have effectively controlled the crystalline evolution and made uniform μc-Si:H materials along the growth direction, which was used as the intrinsic layers of pin solar cells. We attained a 9.36% efficiency with a μc-Si:H single-junction cell structure. We have successfully resolved the cross-contamination issue in a single-chamber system and demonstrated the feasibility of using single-chamber process for manufacturing. We designed and built a large-area multi-chamber VHF system, which is used for depositing a-Si:H/μc-Si:H micromorph tandem modules on 0.79-m2 glass substrates. Preliminary module efficiency has exceeded 8%.
High rate deposition of high quality and stable hydrogenated amorphous silicon (a-Si:H) films were performed near the threshold of amorphous to microcrystalline phase transition using a very high frequency plasma enhanced chemical vapor deposition (VHF-PECVD) method. The effect of hydrogen dilution on optic-electronic and structural properties of these films was investigated by Fourier-transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy, Raman scattering and constant photocurrent method (CPM). Experiment showed that although the phase transition was much influenced by hydrogen dilution, it also strongly depended on substrate temperature, working pressure and plasma power. With optimized condition high quality and high stable a-Si:H films, which exhibit σph/σd of 4.4×106 and deposition rate of 28.8Å/s, have been obtained.
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