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