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One-dimensional fast transient simulator for modeling CdS/CdTe solar cells

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Solar energy, including solar heating, solar architecture, solar thermal electricity and solar photovoltaics, is one of the primary energy sources replacing fossil fuels. Being one of the most important techniques, significant research has been conducted in solar cell efficiency improvement.

Solar energy, including solar heating, solar architecture, solar thermal electricity and solar photovoltaics, is one of the primary energy sources replacing fossil fuels. Being one of the most important techniques, significant research has been conducted in solar cell efficiency improvement. Simulation of various structures and materials of solar cells provides a deeper understanding of device operation and ways to improve their efficiency. Over the last two decades, polycrystalline thin-film Cadmium-Sulfide and Cadmium-Telluride (CdS/CdTe) solar cells fabricated on glass substrates have been considered as one of the most promising candidate in the photovoltaic technologies, for their similar efficiency and low costs when compared to traditional silicon-based solar cells. In this work a fast one dimensional time-dependent/steady-state drift-diffusion simulator, accelerated by adaptive non-uniform mesh and automatic time-step control, for modeling solar cells has been developed and has been used to simulate a CdS/CdTe solar cell. These models are used to reproduce transients of carrier transport in response to step-function signals of different bias and varied light intensity. The time-step control models are also used to help convergence in steady-state simulations where constrained material constants, such as carrier lifetimes in the order of nanosecond and carrier mobility in the order of 100 cm2/Vs, must be applied.

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Date Created
2013

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Monocrystalline ZnTe/CdTe/MgCdTe double heterostructure solar cells grown on InSb substrates by molecular beam epitaxy

Description

There has been recent interest in demonstrating solar cells which approach the detailed-balance or thermodynamic efficiency limit in order to establish a model system for which mass-produced solar cells can be designed. Polycrystalline CdS/CdTe heterostructures are currently one of many

There has been recent interest in demonstrating solar cells which approach the detailed-balance or thermodynamic efficiency limit in order to establish a model system for which mass-produced solar cells can be designed. Polycrystalline CdS/CdTe heterostructures are currently one of many competing solar cell material systems. Despite being polycrystalline, efficiencies up to 21 % have been demonstrated by the company First Solar. However, this efficiency is still far from the detailed-balance limit of 32.1 % for CdTe. This work explores the use of monocrystalline CdTe/MgCdTe and ZnTe/CdTe/MgCdTe double heterostructures (DHs) grown on (001) InSb substrates by molecular beam epitaxy (MBE) for photovoltaic applications.

Undoped CdTe/MgCdTe DHs are first grown in order to determine the material quality of the CdTe epilayer and to optimize the growth conditions. DH samples show strong photoluminescence with over double the intensity as that of a GaAs/AlGaAs DH with an identical layer structure. Time-resolved photoluminescence of the CdTe/MgCdTe DH gives a carrier lifetime of up to 179 ns for a 2 µm thick CdTe layer, which is more than one order of magnitude longer than that of polycrystalline CdTe films. MgCdTe barrier layers are found to be effective at confining photogenerated carriers and have a relatively low interface recombination velocity of 461 cm/s. The optimal growth temperature and Cd/Te flux ratio is determined to be 265 °C and 1.5, respectively.

Monocrystalline ZnTe/CdTe/MgCdTe P-n-N DH solar cells are designed, grown, processed into solar cell devices, and characterized. A maximum efficiency of 6.11 % is demonstrated for samples without an anti-reflection coating. The low efficiency is mainly due to the low open-circuit voltage (Voc), which is attributed to high dark current caused by interface recombination at the ZnTe/CdTe interface. Low-temperature measurements show a linear increase in Voc with decreasing temperature down to 77 K, which suggests that the room-temperature operation is limited by non-radiative recombination. An open-circuit voltage of 1.22 V and an efficiency of 8.46 % is demonstrated at 77 K. It is expected that a coherently strained MgCdTe/CdTe/MgCdTe DH solar cell design will produce higher efficiency and Voc compared to the ZnTe/CdTe/MgCdTe design with relaxed ZnTe layer.

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2014

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

Description

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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Date Created
2012

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Optimization of monocrystalline MgxCd1-xTe/MgyCd1-yTe double-heterostructure solar cells

Description

Polycrystalline CdS/CdTe solar cells continue to dominate the thin-film photovoltaics industry with an achieved record efficiency of over 22% demonstrated by First Solar, yet monocrystalline CdTe devices have received considerably less attention over the years. Monocrystalline CdTe double-heterostructure solar cells

Polycrystalline CdS/CdTe solar cells continue to dominate the thin-film photovoltaics industry with an achieved record efficiency of over 22% demonstrated by First Solar, yet monocrystalline CdTe devices have received considerably less attention over the years. Monocrystalline CdTe double-heterostructure solar cells show great promise with respect to addressing the problem of low Voc with the passing of the 1 V benchmark. Rapid progress has been made in driving the efficiency in these devices ever closer to the record presently held by polycrystalline thin-films. This achievement is primarily due to the utilization of a remote p-n heterojunction in which the heavily doped contact materials, which are so problematic in terms of increasing non-radiative recombination inside the absorber, are moved outside of the CdTe double heterostructure with two MgyCd1-yTe barrier layers to provide confinement and passivation at the CdTe surfaces. Using this design, the pursuit and demonstration of efficiencies beyond 20% in CdTe solar cells is reported through the study and optimization of the structure barriers, contacts layers, and optical design. Further development of a wider bandgap MgxCd1-xTe solar cell based on the same design is included with the intention of applying this knowledge to the development of a tandem solar cell constructed on a silicon subcell. The exploration of different hole-contact materials—ZnTe, CuZnS, and a-Si:H—and their optimization is presented throughout the work. Devices utilizing a-Si:H hole contacts exhibit open-circuit voltages of up to 1.11 V, a maximum total-area efficiency of 18.5% measured under AM1.5G, and an active-area efficiency of 20.3% for CdTe absorber based devices. The achievement of voltages beyond 1.1V while still maintaining relatively high fill factors with no rollover, either before or after open-circuit, is a promising indicator that this approach can result in devices surpassing the 22% record set by polycrystalline designs. MgxCd1-xTe absorber based devices have been demonstrated with open-circuit voltages of up to 1.176 V and a maximum active-area efficiency of 11.2%. A discussion of the various loss mechanisms present within these devices, both optical and electrical, concludes with the presentation of a series of potential design changes meant to address these issues.

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2017

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Modeling of Copper Migration In CdTe Photovoltaic Devices

Description

Thin-film modules of all technologies often suffer from performance degradation over time. Some of the performance changes are reversible and some are not, which makes deployment, testing, and energy-yield prediction more challenging. The most commonly alleged causes of instability in

Thin-film modules of all technologies often suffer from performance degradation over time. Some of the performance changes are reversible and some are not, which makes deployment, testing, and energy-yield prediction more challenging. The most commonly alleged causes of instability in CdTe device, such as “migration of Cu,” have been investigated rigorously over the past fifteen years. As all defects, intrinsic or extrinsic, interact with the electrical potential and free carriers so that charged defects may drift in the electric field and changing ionization state with excess free carriers. Such complexity of interactions in CdTe makes understanding of temporal changes in device performance even more challenging. The goal of the work in this dissertation is, thus, to eliminate the ambiguity between the observed performance changes under stress and their physical root cause by enabling a depth of modeling that takes account of diffusion and drift at the atomistic level coupled to the electronic subsystem responsible for a PV device’s function. The 1D Unified Solver, developed as part of this effort, enables us to analyze PV devices at a greater depth.

In this dissertation, the implementation of a drift-diffusion model defect migration simulator, development of an implicit reaction scheme for total mass conservation, and a couple of other numerical schemes to improve the overall flexibility and robustness of this coupled Unified Solver is discussed. Preliminary results on Cu (with or without Cl-treatment) annealing simulations in both single-crystal CdTe wafer and poly-crystalline CdTe devices show promising agreement to experimental findings, providing a new perspective in the research of improving doping concentration hence the open-circuit voltage of CdTe technology. Furthermore, on the reliability side, in agreement of previous experimental reports, simulation results suggest possibility of Cu depletion in short-circuited cells stressed at elevated temperature. The developed solver also successfully demonstrated that mobile donor migration can be used to explain solar cell performance changes under different stress conditions.

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Date Created
2017

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Towards high-efficiency thin-film solar cells: from theoretical analysis to experimental exploration

Description

GaAs single-junction solar cells have been studied extensively in recent years, and have reached over 28 % efficiency. Further improvement requires an optically thick but physically thin absorber to provide both large short-circuit current and high open-circuit voltage. By detailed

GaAs single-junction solar cells have been studied extensively in recent years, and have reached over 28 % efficiency. Further improvement requires an optically thick but physically thin absorber to provide both large short-circuit current and high open-circuit voltage. By detailed simulation, it is concluded that ultra-thin GaAs cells with hundreds of nanometers thickness and reflective back scattering can potentially offer efficiencies greater than 30 %. The 300 nm GaAs solar cell with AlInP/Au reflective back scattering is carefully designed and demonstrates an efficiency of 19.1 %. The device performance is analyzed using the semi-analytical model with Phong distribution implemented to account for non-Lambertian scattering. A Phong exponent m of ~12, a non-radiative lifetime of 130 ns, and a specific series resistivity of 1.2 Ω·cm2 are determined.

Thin-film CdTe solar cells have also attracted lots of attention due to the continuous improvements in their device performance. To address the issue of the lower efficiency record compared to detailed-balance limit, the single-crystalline Cd(Zn)Te/MgCdTe double heterostructures (DH) grown on InSb (100) substrates by molecular beam epitaxy (MBE) are carefully studied. The Cd0.9946Zn0.0054Te alloy lattice-matched to InSb has been demonstrated with a carrier lifetime of 0.34 µs observed in a 3 µm thick Cd0.9946Zn0.0054Te/MgCdTe DH sample. The substantial improvement of lifetime is due to the reduction in misfit dislocation density. The recombination lifetime and interface recombination velocity (IRV) of CdTe/MgxCd1-xTe DHs are investigated. The IRV is found to be dependent on both the MgCdTe barrier height and width due to the thermionic emission and tunneling processes. A record-long carrier lifetime of 2.7 µs and a record-low IRV of close to zero have been confirmed experimentally.

The MgCdTe/Si tandem solar cell is proposed to address the issue of high manufacturing costs and poor performance of thin-film solar cells. The MBE grown MgxCd1-xTe/MgyCd1-yTe DHs have demonstrated the required bandgap energy of 1.7 eV, a carrier lifetime of 11 ns, and an effective IRV of (1.869 ± 0.007) × 103 cm/s. The large IRV is attributed to thermionic-emission induced interface recombination. These understandings can be applied to fabricating the high-efficiency low-cost MgCdTe/Si tandem solar cell.

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2015

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Study of CdTe/MgxCd1-xTe double heterostructures and their application in high efficiency solar cells and in luminescence refrigeration

Description

CdTe/MgxCd1-xTe double heterostructures (DHs) have been grown on lattice matched InSb (001) substrates using Molecular Beam Epitaxy. The MgxCd1-xTe layers, which have a wider bandgap and type-I band edge alignment with CdTe, provide sufficient carrier confinement to CdTe, so that

CdTe/MgxCd1-xTe double heterostructures (DHs) have been grown on lattice matched InSb (001) substrates using Molecular Beam Epitaxy. The MgxCd1-xTe layers, which have a wider bandgap and type-I band edge alignment with CdTe, provide sufficient carrier confinement to CdTe, so that the optical properties of CdTe can be studied. The DH samples show very strong Photoluminescence (PL) intensity, long carrier lifetimes (up to 3.6 μs) and low effective interface recombination velocity at the CdTe/MgxCd1 xTe heterointerface (~1 cm/s), indicating the high material quality. Indium has been attempted as an n-type dopant in CdTe and it is found that the carriers are 100% ionized in the doping range of 1×1016 cm-3 to 1×1018 cm-3. With decent doping levels, long minority carrier lifetime, and almost perfect surface passivation by the MgxCd1-xTe layer, the CdTe/MgxCd1-xTe DHs are applied to high efficiency CdTe solar cells. Monocrystalline CdTe solar cells with efficiency of 17.0% and a record breaking open circuit voltage of 1.096 V have been demonstrated in our group.

Mg0.13Cd0.87Te (1.7 eV), also with high material quality, has been proposed as a current matching cell to Si (1.1 eV) solar cells, which could potentially enable a tandem solar cell with high efficiency and thus lower the electricity cost. The properties of Mg0.13Cd0.87Te/Mg0.5Cd0.5Te DHs and solar cells have been investigated. Carrier lifetime as long as 0.56 μs is observed and a solar cell with 11.2% efficiency and open circuit voltage of 1.176 V is demonstrated.

The CdTe/MgxCd1-xTe DHs could also be potentially applied to luminescence refrigeration, which could be used in vibration-free space applications. Both external luminescence quantum efficiency and excitation-dependent PL measurement show that the best quality samples are almost 100% dominated by radiative recombination, and calculation shows that the internal quantum efficiency can be as high as 99.7% at the optimal injection level (1017 cm-3). External luminescence quantum efficiency of over 98% can be realized for luminescence refrigeration with the proper design of optical structures.

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Date Created
2016