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Novel materials, grid design rule, and characterization methods for multi-junction solar cells

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This dissertation addresses challenges pertaining to multi-junction (MJ) solar cells from material development to device design and characterization. Firstly, among the various methods to improve the energy conversion efficiency of MJ solar cells using, a novel approach proposed recently is

This dissertation addresses challenges pertaining to multi-junction (MJ) solar cells from material development to device design and characterization. Firstly, among the various methods to improve the energy conversion efficiency of MJ solar cells using, a novel approach proposed recently is to use II-VI (MgZnCd)(SeTe) and III-V (AlGaIn)(AsSb) semiconductors lattice-matched on GaSb or InAs substrates for current-matched subcells with minimal defect densities. CdSe/CdTe superlattices are proposed as a potential candidate for a subcell in the MJ solar cell designs using this material system, and therefore the material properties of the superlattices are studied. The high structural qualities of the superlattices are obtained from high resolution X-ray diffraction measurements and cross-sectional transmission electron microscopy images. The effective bandgap energies of the superlattices obtained from the photoluminescence (PL) measurements vary with the layer thicknesses, and are smaller than the bandgap energies of either the constituent material. Furthermore, The PL peak position measured at the steady state exhibits a blue shift that increases with the excess carrier concentration. These results confirm a strong type-II band edge alignment between CdSe and CdTe. The valence band offset between unstrained CdSe and CdTe is determined as 0.63 eV±0.06 eV by fitting the measured PL peak positions using the Kronig-Penney model. The blue shift in PL peak position is found to be primarily caused by the band bending effect based on self-consistent solutions of the Schrödinger and Poisson equations. Secondly, the design of the contact grid layout is studied to maximize the power output and energy conversion efficiency for concentrator solar cells. Because the conventional minimum power loss method used for the contact design is not accurate in determining the series resistance loss, a method of using a distributed series resistance model to maximize the power output is proposed for the contact design. It is found that the junction recombination loss in addition to the series resistance loss and shadowing loss can significantly affect the contact layout. The optimal finger spacing and maximum efficiency calculated by the two methods are close, and the differences are dependent on the series resistance and saturation currents of solar cells. Lastly, the accurate measurements of external quantum efficiency (EQE) are important for the design and development of MJ solar cells. However, the electrical and optical couplings between the subcells have caused EQE measurement artifacts. In order to interpret the measurement artifacts, DC and small signal models are built for the bias condition and the scan of chopped monochromatic light in the EQE measurements. Characterization methods are developed for the device parameters used in the models. The EQE measurement artifacts are found to be caused by the shunt and luminescence coupling effects, and can be minimized using proper voltage and light biases. Novel measurement methods using a pulse voltage bias or a pulse light bias are invented to eliminate the EQE measurement artifacts. These measurement methods are nondestructive and easy to implement. The pulse voltage bias or pulse light bias is superimposed on the conventional DC voltage and light biases, in order to control the operating points of the subcells and counterbalance the effects of shunt and luminescence coupling. The methods are demonstrated for the first time to effectively eliminate the measurement artifacts.

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2012

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Study of self-heating effects in GaN HEMTs

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GaN high electron mobility transistors (HEMTs) based on the III-V nitride material system have been under extensive investigation because of their superb performance as high power RF devices. Two dimensional electron gas(2-DEG) with charge density ten times higher than that

GaN high electron mobility transistors (HEMTs) based on the III-V nitride material system have been under extensive investigation because of their superb performance as high power RF devices. Two dimensional electron gas(2-DEG) with charge density ten times higher than that of GaAs-based HEMT and mobility much higher than Si enables a low on-resistance required for RF devices. Self-heating issues with GaN HEMT and lack of understanding of various phenomena are hindering their widespread commercial development. There is a need to understand device operation by developing a model which could be used to optimize electrical and thermal characteristics of GaN HEMT design for high power and high frequency operation. In this thesis work a physical simulation model of AlGaN/GaN HEMT is developed using commercially available software ATLAS from SILVACO Int. based on the energy balance/hydrodynamic carrier transport equations. The model is calibrated against experimental data. Transfer and output characteristics are the key focus in the analysis along with saturation drain current. The resultant IV curves showed a close correspondence with experimental results. Various combinations of electron mobility, velocity saturation, momentum and energy relaxation times and gate work functions were attempted to improve IV curve correlation. Thermal effects were also investigated to get a better understanding on the role of self-heating effects on the electrical characteristics of GaN HEMTs. The temperature profiles across the device were observed. Hot spots were found along the channel in the gate-drain spacing. These preliminary results indicate that the thermal effects do have an impact on the electrical device characteristics at large biases even though the amount of self-heating is underestimated with respect to thermal particle-based simulations that solve the energy balance equations for acoustic and optical phonons as well (thus take proper account of the formation of the hot-spot). The decrease in drain current is due to decrease in saturation carrier velocity. The necessity of including hydrodynamic/energy balance transport models for accurate simulations is demonstrated. Possible ways for improving model accuracy are discussed in conjunction with future research.

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2013

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Modeling reliability of Gallium Nitride high electron mobility transistors

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This work is focused on modeling the reliability concerns in GaN HEMT technology. The two main reliability concerns in GaN HEMTs are electromechanical coupling and current collapse. A theoretical model was developed to model the piezoelectric polarization charge dependence on

This work is focused on modeling the reliability concerns in GaN HEMT technology. The two main reliability concerns in GaN HEMTs are electromechanical coupling and current collapse. A theoretical model was developed to model the piezoelectric polarization charge dependence on the applied gate voltage. As the sheet electron density in the channel increases, the influence of electromechanical coupling reduces as the electric field in the comprising layers reduces. A Monte Carlo device simulator that implements the theoretical model was developed to model the transport in GaN HEMTs. It is observed that with the coupled formulation, the drain current degradation in the device varies from 2%-18% depending on the gate voltage. Degradation reduces with the increase in the gate voltage due to the increase in the electron gas density in the channel. The output and transfer characteristics match very well with the experimental data. An electro-thermal device simulator was developed coupling the Monte Caro-Poisson solver with the energy balance solver for acoustic and optical phonons. An output current degradation of around 2-3 % at a drain voltage of 5V due to self-heating was observed. It was also observed that the electrostatics near the gate to drain region of the device changes due to the hot spot created in the device from self heating. This produces an electric field in the direction of accelerating the electrons from the channel to surface states. This will aid to the current collapse phenomenon in the device. Thus, the electric field in the gate to drain region is very critical for reliable performance of the device. Simulations emulating the charging of the surface states were also performed and matched well with experimental data. Methods to improve the reliability performance of the device were also investigated in this work. A shield electrode biased at source potential was used to reduce the electric field in the gate to drain extension region. The hot spot position was moved away from the critical gate to drain region towards the drain as the shield electrode length and dielectric thickness were being altered.

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2013

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Simulation of high temperature InGaN photovoltaic devices

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In recent years, there has been increased interest in the Indium Gallium Nitride (InGaN) material system for photovoltaic (PV) applications. The InGaN alloy system has demonstrated high performance for high frequency power devices, as well as for optical light emitters.

In recent years, there has been increased interest in the Indium Gallium Nitride (InGaN) material system for photovoltaic (PV) applications. The InGaN alloy system has demonstrated high performance for high frequency power devices, as well as for optical light emitters. This material system is also promising for photovoltaic applications due to broad range of bandgaps of InxGa1-xN alloys from 0.65 eV (InN) to 3.42 eV (GaN), which covers most of the electromagnetic spectrum from ultraviolet to infrared wavelengths. InGaN’s high absorption coefficient, radiation resistance and thermal stability (operating with temperature > 450 ℃) makes it a suitable PV candidate for hybrid concentrating solar thermal systems as well as other high temperature applications. This work proposed a high efficiency InGaN-based 2J tandem cell for high temperature (450 ℃) and concentration (200 X) hybrid concentrated solar thermal (CSP) application via numerical simulation. In order to address the polarization and band-offset issues for GaN/InGaN hetero-solar cells, band-engineering techniques are adopted and a simple interlayer is proposed at the hetero-interface rather than an Indium composition grading layer which is not practical in fabrication. The base absorber thickness and doping has been optimized for 1J cell performance and current matching has been achieved for 2J tandem cell design. The simulations also suggest that the issue of crystalline quality (i.e. short SRH lifetime) of the nitride material system to date is a crucial factor limiting the performance of the designed 2J cell at high temperature. Three pathways to achieve ~25% efficiency have been proposed under 450 ℃ and 200 X. An anti-reflection coating (ARC) for the InGaN solar cell optical management has been designed. Finally, effective mobility model for quantum well solar cells has been developed for efficient quasi-bulk simulation.

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2017

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Mobility Modeling of Gallium Nitride Nanowires

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Semiconductor nanowires have the potential to emerge as the building blocks of next generation field-effect transistors, logic gates, solar cells and light emitting diodes. Use of Gallium Nitride (GaN) and other wide bandgap materials combines the advantages of III-nitrides along

Semiconductor nanowires have the potential to emerge as the building blocks of next generation field-effect transistors, logic gates, solar cells and light emitting diodes. Use of Gallium Nitride (GaN) and other wide bandgap materials combines the advantages of III-nitrides along with the enhanced mobility offered by 2-dimensional confinement present in nanowires. The focus of this thesis is on developing a low field mobility model for a GaN nanowire using Ensemble Monte Carlo (EMC) techniques. A 2D Schrödinger-Poisson solver and a one-dimensional Monte Carlo solver is developed for an Aluminum Gallium Nitride/Gallium Nitride Heterostructure nanowire. A GaN/AlN/AlGaN heterostructure device is designed which creates 2-dimensional potential well for electrons. The nanowire is treated as a quasi-1D system in this work. A self-consistent 2D Schrödinger-Poisson solver is designed which determines the subband energies and the corresponding wavefunctions of the confined system. Three scattering mechanisms: acoustic phonon scattering, polar optical phonon scattering and piezoelectric scattering are considered to account for the electron phonon interactions in the system. Overlap integrals and 1D scattering rate expressions are derived for all the mechanisms listed. A generic one-dimensional Monte Carlo solver is also developed. Steady state results from the 1D Monte Carlo solver are extracted to determine the low field mobility of the GaN nanowires.

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2017

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Design and Development of High Performance III-Nitrides Photovoltaics

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Wurtzite (In, Ga, Al) N semiconductors, especially InGaN material systems, demonstrate immense promises for the high efficiency thin film photovoltaic (PV) applications for future generation. Their unique and intriguing merits include continuously tunable wide band gap from 0.70 eV to

Wurtzite (In, Ga, Al) N semiconductors, especially InGaN material systems, demonstrate immense promises for the high efficiency thin film photovoltaic (PV) applications for future generation. Their unique and intriguing merits include continuously tunable wide band gap from 0.70 eV to 3.4 eV, strong absorption coefficient on the order of ∼105 cm−1, superior radiation resistance under harsh environment, and high saturation velocities and high mobility. Calculation from the detailed balance model also revealed that in multi-junction (MJ) solar cell device, materials with band gaps higher than 2.4 eV are required to achieve PV efficiencies greater than 50%, which is practically and easily feasible for InGaN materials. Other state-of-art modeling on InGaN solar cells also demonstrate great potential for applications of III-nitride solar cells in four-junction solar cell devices as well as in the integration with a non-III-nitride junction in multi-junction devices.

This dissertation first theoretically analyzed loss mechanisms and studied the theoretical limit of PV performance of InGaN solar cells with a semi-analytical model. Then three device design strategies are proposed to study and improve PV performance: band polarization engineering, structural design and band engineering. Moreover, three physical mechanisms related to high temperature performance of InGaN solar cells have been thoroughly investigated: thermal reliability issue, enhanced external quantum efficiency (EQE) and conversion efficiency with rising temperatures and carrier dynamics and localization effects inside nonpolar m-plane InGaN quantum wells (QWs) at high temperatures. In the end several future work will also be proposed.

Although still in its infancy, past and projected future progress of device design will ultimately achieve this very goal that III-nitride based solar cells will be indispensable for today and future’s society, technologies and society.

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2020

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Wide Bandgap Semiconductors Based Energy-Efficient Optoelectronics and Power Electronics

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Wide bandgap (WBG) semiconductors GaN (3.4 eV), Ga2O3 (4.8 eV) and AlN (6.2 eV), have gained considerable interests for energy-efficient optoelectronic and electronic applications in solid-state lighting, photovoltaics, power conversion, and so on. They can offer unique device performance compared

Wide bandgap (WBG) semiconductors GaN (3.4 eV), Ga2O3 (4.8 eV) and AlN (6.2 eV), have gained considerable interests for energy-efficient optoelectronic and electronic applications in solid-state lighting, photovoltaics, power conversion, and so on. They can offer unique device performance compared with traditional semiconductors such as Si. Efficient GaN based light-emitting diodes (LEDs) have increasingly displaced incandescent and fluorescent bulbs as the new major light sources for lighting and display. In addition, due to their large bandgap and high critical electrical field, WBG semiconductors are also ideal candidates for efficient power conversion.

In this dissertation, two types of devices are demonstrated: optoelectronic and electronic devices. Commercial polar c-plane LEDs suffer from reduced efficiency with increasing current densities, knowns as “efficiency droop”, while nonpolar/semipolar LEDs exhibit a very low efficiency droop. A modified ABC model with weak phase space filling effects is proposed to explain the low droop performance, providing insights for designing droop-free LEDs. The other emerging optoelectronics is nonpolar/semipolar III-nitride intersubband transition (ISBT) based photodetectors in terahertz and far infrared regime due to the large optical phonon energy and band offset, and the potential of room-temperature operation. ISBT properties are systematically studied for devices with different structures parameters.

In terms of electronic devices, vertical GaN p-n diodes and Schottky barrier diodes (SBDs) with high breakdown voltages are homoepitaxially grown on GaN bulk substrates with much reduced defect densities and improved device performance. The advantages of the vertical structure over the lateral structure are multifold: smaller chip area, larger current, less sensitivity to surface states, better scalability, and smaller current dispersion. Three methods are proposed to boost the device performances: thick buffer layer design, hydrogen-plasma based edge termination technique, and multiple drift layer design. In addition, newly emerged Ga2O3 and AlN power electronics may outperform GaN devices. Because of the highly anisotropic crystal structure of Ga2O3, anisotropic electrical properties have been observed in Ga2O3 electronics. The first 1-kV-class AlN SBDs are demonstrated on cost-effective sapphire substrates. Several future topics are also proposed including selective-area doping in GaN power devices, vertical AlN power devices, and (Al,Ga,In)2O3 materials and devices.

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2019