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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Ultra-thin passivation layers in Cu(In,Ga)Se2 thin-film solar cells: full-area passivated front contacts and their impact on bulk doping.

  • Author(s): Werner, Florian;
  • Veith-Wolf, Boris;
  • Melchiorre, Michele;
  • Babbe, Finn;
  • Schmidt, Jan;
  • Siebentritt, Susanne
  • et al.

In the search for highly transparent and non-toxic alternative front layers replacing state-of-the-art CdS in Cu(In,Ga)Se2 thin-film solar cells, alternatives rarely exceed reference devices in terms of efficiency. Full-area ultra-thin aluminium oxide tunnelling layers do not require any contact patterning and thus overcome the main drawback of insulating passivation layers. Even a few monolayers of aluminium oxide can be deposited in a controlled manner by atomic layer deposition, they show excellent interface passivation properties, low absorption, and suitable current transport characteristics on test devices. Depositing a ZnO-based transparent front contact, however, results in extremely poor solar cell performance. The issue is not necessarily a low quality of the alternative front layer, but rather the intricate relation between front layer processing and electronic bulk properties in the absorber layer. We identify three challenges critical for the development of novel front passivation approaches: (i) both Cd and Zn impurities beneficially reduce the high native net dopant concentration in the space charge region, (ii) sputter deposition of ZnO damages the passivation layer resulting in increased interface recombination, (iii) thermal treatments of devices with ZnO layer result in substantial Zn diffusion, which can penetrate the full absorber thickness already at moderate temperatures.

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