Photovoltaics (PV) is one of the promising options for maintaining sustainable energy supply because it is environmentally friendly, a non-polluting and low-maintenance energy source. Despite the many advantages of PV, solar energy currently accounts for only 1% of the global energy portfolio for electricity generation. This is because the cost of electricity from PV remains about a factor of two higher than the fossil fuel (10¢/kWh). Widely-used commercial methods employed to generate PV energy, such as silicon or thin film-based technologies, are still expensive as they are processed through vacuum-based techniques. Therefore, it is desirable to find an alternative method that is open-air and continuous process for the mass production of solar cells.
The objective of the research in this thesis is to develop low-cost spray pyrolysis technique to synthesize oxides thin films for applications in solar cells. Chapter 4 and 5 discuss spray-deposited dielectric oxides for their applications in Si solar cells. In Chapter 4, a successful deposition of Al2O3 is demonstrated using water as the solvent which ensures a lower cost and safer process environment. Optical, electrical, and structural properties of spray-deposited Al2O3 are investigated and compared to the industrial standard Atomic Layer Deposition (ALD) Al2O3/Plasma Enhanced Chemical Vapor Deposition (PECVD) SiNx stack, to reveal the suitability of spray-deposited Al2O3 for rear passivation and optical trapping in p-type Si Passivated Emitter and Rear Cell (PERC) solar cells. In Chapter 5, The possibility of using low-cost spray-deposited ZrO2 as the antireflection coating for Si solar cells is investigated. Optical, electrical and structural properties of spray-deposited ZrO2 films are studied and compared to the industrial standard antireflection coating PECVD SiNx. In Chapter 6, spray-deposited hematite Fe2O3 and sol-gel prepared anatase TiO2 thin films are sulfurized by annealing in H2S to investigate the band gap narrowing by sulfur doping and explore the possibility of using ternary semiconductors for their application as solar absorbers.