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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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Heterojunction and nanostructured photovoltaic device: theory and experiment

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A primary motivation of research in photovoltaic technology is to obtain higher efficiency photovoltaic devices at reduced cost of production so that solar electricity can be cost competitive. The majority of photovoltaic technologies are based on p-n junction, with efficiency

A primary motivation of research in photovoltaic technology is to obtain higher efficiency photovoltaic devices at reduced cost of production so that solar electricity can be cost competitive. The majority of photovoltaic technologies are based on p-n junction, with efficiency potential being much lower than the thermodynamic limits of individual technologies and thereby providing substantial scope for further improvements in efficiency. The thesis explores photovoltaic devices using new physical processes that rely on thin layers and are capable of attaining the thermodynamic limit of photovoltaic technology. Silicon heterostructure is one of the candidate technologies in which thin films induce a minority carrier collecting junction in silicon and the devices can achieve efficiency close to the thermodynamic limits of silicon technology. The thesis proposes and experimentally establishes a new theory explaining the operation of silicon heterostructure solar cells. The theory will assist in identifying the optimum properties of thin film materials for silicon heterostructure and help in design and characterization of the devices, along with aiding in developing new devices based on this technology. The efficiency potential of silicon heterostructure is constrained by the thermodynamic limit (31%) of single junction solar cell and is considerably lower than the limit of photovoltaic conversion (~ 80 %). A further improvement in photovoltaic conversion efficiency is possible by implementing a multiple quasi-fermi level system (MQFL). A MQFL allows the absorption of sub band gap photons with current being extracted at a higher band-gap, thereby allowing to overcome the efficiency limit of single junction devices. A MQFL can be realized either by thin epitaxial layers of alternating higher and lower band gap material with nearly lattice matched (quantum well) or highly lattice mismatched (quantum dot) structure. The thesis identifies the material combination for quantum well structure and calculates the absorption coefficient of a MQFl based on quantum well. GaAsSb (barrier)/InAs(dot) was identified as a candidate material for MQFL using quantum dot. The thesis explains the growth mechanism of GaAsSb and the optimization of GaAsSb and GaAs heterointerface.

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2011

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Material properties of MBE Grown ZnTe, GaSb and their heterostructures for optoelectronic device applications

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Recently a new materials platform consisting of semiconductors grown on GaSb and InAs substrates with lattice constants close to 6.1 A was proposed by our group for various electronic and optoelectronic applications. This materials platform consists of both II-VI (MgZnCdHg)(SeTe)

Recently a new materials platform consisting of semiconductors grown on GaSb and InAs substrates with lattice constants close to 6.1 A was proposed by our group for various electronic and optoelectronic applications. This materials platform consists of both II-VI (MgZnCdHg)(SeTe) and III-V (InGaAl)(AsSb) compound semiconductors, which have direct bandgaps spanning the entire energy spectrum from far-IR (~0 eV) up to UV (~3.4 eV). The broad range of bandgaps and material properties make it very attractive for a wide range of applications in optoelectronics, such as solar cells, laser diodes, light emitting diodes, and photodetectors. Moreover, this novel materials system potentially offers unlimited degrees of freedom for integration of electronic and optoelectronic devices onto a single substrate while keeping the best possible materials quality with very low densities of misfit dislocations. This capability is not achievable with any other known lattice-matched semiconductors on any available substrate. In the 6.1-A materials system, the semiconductors ZnTe and GaSb are almost perfectly lattice-matched with a lattice mismatch of only 0.13%. Correspondingly, it is expected that high quality ZnTe/GaSb and GaSb/ZnTe heterostructures can be achieved with very few dislocations generated during growth. To fulfill the task, their MBE growth and material properties are carefully investigated. High quality ZnTe layers grown on various III-V substrates and GaSb grown on ZnTe are successfully achieved using MBE. It is also noticed that ZnTe and GaSb have a type-I band-edge alignment with large band offsets (delta_Ec=0.934 eV, delta_Ev=0.6 eV), which provides strong confinement for both electrons and holes. Furthermore, a large difference in refractive index is found between ZnTe and GaSb (2.7 and 3.9, respectively, at 0.7 eV), leading to excellent optical confinement of the guided optical modes in planar semiconductor lasers or distributed Bragg reflectors (DBR) for vertical-cavity surface-emitting lasers. Therefore, GaSb/ZnTe double-heterostructure and ZnTe/GaSb DBR structure are suitable for use in light emitting devices. In this thesis work, experimental demonstration of these structures with excellent structural and optical properties is reported. During the exploration on the properties of various ZnTe heterostructures, it is found that residual tensile strains exist in the thick ZnTe epilayers when they are grown on GaAs, InP, InAs and GaSb substrates. The presence of tensile strains is due to the difference in thermal expansion coefficients between the epilayers and the substrates. The defect densities in these ZnTe layers become lower as the ZnTe layer thickness increases. Growth of high quality GaSb on ZnTe can be achieved using a temperature ramp during growth. The influence of temperature ramps with different ramping rates in the optical properties of GaSb layer is studied, and the samples grown with a temperature ramp from 360 to 470 C at a rate of 33 C/min show the narrowest bound exciton emission peak with a full width at half maximum of 15 meV. ZnTe/GaSb DBR structures show excellent reflectivity properties in the mid-infrared range. A peak reflectance of 99% with a wide stopband of 480 nm centered at 2.5 um is measured from a ZnTe/GaSb DBR sample of only 7 quarter-wavelength pairs.

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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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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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2016

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Molecular beam epitaxial growth of monocrystalline MgxCd1-xTe/MgyCd1-yTe (x<y) double heterostructures and solar cells

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This dissertation details a study of wide-bandgap molecular beam epitaxy (MBE)-grown single-crystal MgxCd1-xTe. The motivation for this study is to open a pathway to reduced $/W solar power generation through the development of a high-efficiency 1.7-eV II-VI top cell current-matched

This dissertation details a study of wide-bandgap molecular beam epitaxy (MBE)-grown single-crystal MgxCd1-xTe. The motivation for this study is to open a pathway to reduced $/W solar power generation through the development of a high-efficiency 1.7-eV II-VI top cell current-matched to low-cost 1.1-eV silicon. This paper reports the demonstration of monocrystalline 1.7-eV MgxCd1-xTe/MgyCd1-yTe (y>x) double heterostructures (DHs) with a record carrier lifetime of 560 nanoseconds, along with a 1.7-eV MgxCd1-xTe/MgyCd1-yTe (y>x) single-junction solar cell with a record active-area efficiency of 15.2% and a record open-circuit voltage (VOC) of 1.176 V. A study of indium-doped n-type 1.7-eV MgxCd1-xTe with a carrier activation of up to 5 × 1017 cm-3 is presented with promise to increase device VOC. Finally, this paper reports an epitaxial lift-off (ELO) technology using water-soluble MgTe for the creation of free-standing MBE-grown II-VI single-crystal CdTe and 1.7-eV MgxCd1-xTe solar cells freed from lattice-matched InSb(001) substrates. Photoluminescence (PL) spectroscopy measurements comparing intact and free-standing films reveal the survival of optical quality in CdTe DHs after ELO. This technology opens up several possibilities to drastically increase cell conversion efficiency through improved light management and transferability into monolithic multijunction devices. Lastly, this report will present considerations for future work in each of the study areas mentioned above.

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2019

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The design and demonstration of monocrystalline CdTe/MgCdTe double-heterostructure solar cells

Description

Cadmium Telluride (CdTe) possesses preferable optical properties for photovoltaic (PV) applications: a near optimum bandgap of 1.5 eV, and a high absorption coefficient of over 15,000 cm-1 at the band edge. The detailed-balance limiting efficiency is 32.1% with an open-circuit

Cadmium Telluride (CdTe) possesses preferable optical properties for photovoltaic (PV) applications: a near optimum bandgap of 1.5 eV, and a high absorption coefficient of over 15,000 cm-1 at the band edge. The detailed-balance limiting efficiency is 32.1% with an open-circuit voltage (Voc) of 1.23 V under the AM1.5G spectrum. The record polycrystalline CdTe thin-film cell efficiency has reached 22.1%, with excellent short-circuit current densities (Jsc) and fill-factors (FF). However, the Voc (~900 mV) is still far below the theoretical value, due to the large non-radiative recombination in the polycrystalline CdTe absorber, and the low-level p-type doping.

Monocrystalline CdTe/MgCdTe double-heterostructures (DHs) grown on lattice-matched InSb substrates have demonstrated impressively long carrier lifetimes in both unintentionally doped and Indium-doped n-type CdTe samples. The non-radiative recombination inside of, and at the interfaces of the CdTe absorbers in CdTe/MgCdTe DH samples has been significantly reduced due to the use of lattice-matched InSb substrates, and the excellent passivation provided by the MgCdTe barrier layers. The external luminescent quantum efficiency (η_ext) of n-type CdTe/MgCdTe DHs is up to 3.1%, observed from a 1-µm-thick CdTe/MgCdTe DH doped at 1017 cm-3. The 3.1% η_ext corresponds to an internal luminescent quantum efficiency (η_int) of 91%. Such a high η_ext gives an implied Voc, or quasi-Fermi-level splitting, of 1.13 V.

To obtain actual Voc, the quasi-Fermi-level splitting should be extracted to outside the circuit using a hole-selective contact layer. However, CdTe is difficult to be doped p-type, making it challenging to make efficient PN junction CdTe solar cells. With the use of MgCdTe barrier layers, the hole-contact layer can be defective without affecting the voltage. P-type hydrogenated amorphous silicon is an effective hole-selective contact for CdTe solar cells, enabling monocrystalline CdTe/MgCdTe DH solar cells to achieve Voc over 1.1 V, and a maximum active area efficiency of 18.8% (Jsc = 23.3 mA/cm2, Voc = 1.114 V, and FF = 72.3%). The knowledge gained through making the record-efficiency monocrystalline CdTe cell, particularly the n-type doping and the double-heterostructure design, may be transferable to polycrystalline CdTe thin-film cells and improve their competitiveness in the PV industry.

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Date Created
2016

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Efficient Schrödinger-Poisson Solvers for Quasi 1D Systems That Utilize PETSc and SLEPc

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The quest to find efficient algorithms to numerically solve differential equations isubiquitous in all branches of computational science. A natural approach to address
this problem is to try all possible algorithms to solve the differential equation and
choose the one

The quest to find efficient algorithms to numerically solve differential equations isubiquitous in all branches of computational science. A natural approach to address
this problem is to try all possible algorithms to solve the differential equation and
choose the one that is satisfactory to one's needs. However, the vast variety of algorithms
in place makes this an extremely time consuming task. Additionally, even
after choosing the algorithm to be used, the style of programming is not guaranteed
to result in the most efficient algorithm. This thesis attempts to address the same
problem but pertinent to the field of computational nanoelectronics, by using PETSc
linear solver and SLEPc eigenvalue solver packages to efficiently solve Schrödinger
and Poisson equations self-consistently.
In this work, quasi 1D nanowire fabricated in the GaN material system is considered
as a prototypical example. Special attention is placed on the proper description
of the heterostructure device, the polarization charges and accurate treatment of the
free surfaces. Simulation results are presented for the conduction band profiles, the
electron density and the energy eigenvalues/eigenvectors of the occupied sub-bands
for this quasi 1D nanowire. The simulation results suggest that the solver is very
efficient and can be successfully used for the analysis of any device with two dimensional
confinement. The tool is ported on www.nanoHUB.org and as such is freely
available.

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Date Created
2020