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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.
A dual chamber molecular beam epitaxy (MBE) system was rebuilt for the growth of 6.1 Angstrom II-VI and III-V compound semiconductor materials that are to be used in novel optoelectronic devices that take advantage of the nearly continuous bandgap availability between 0 eV and 3.4 eV. These devices include multijunction solar cells and multicolor detectors. The MBE system upgrade involved the conversion of a former III-V chamber for II-VI growth. This required intensive cleaning of the chamber and components to prevent contamination. Special features including valved II-VI sources and the addition of a cold trap allowed for the full system to be baked to 200 degrees Celsius to improve vacuum conditions and reduce background impurity concentrations in epilayers. After the conversion, the system was carefully calibrated and optimized for the growth of ZnSe and ZnTe on GaAs (001) substrates. Material quality was assessed using X-ray diffraction rocking curves. ZnSe layers displayed a trend of improving quality with decreasing growth temperature reaching a minimum full-width half-maximum (FWHM) of 113 arcsec at 278 degrees Celsius. ZnTe epilayer quality increased with growth temperature under Zn rich conditions attaining a FWHM of 84 arcsec at 440 degrees Celsius. RHEED oscillations were successfully observed and used to obtain growth rate in situ for varying flux and temperature levels. For a fixed flux ratio, growth rate decreased with growth temperature as the desorption rate increased. A directly proportional dependence of growth rate on Te flux was observed for Zn rich growth. Furthermore, a method for determining the flux ratio necessary for attaining the stoichiometric condition was demonstrated.
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.