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Sputtered p‑Type Cu x Zn1–x S Back Contact to CdTe Solar Cells


As thin-film cadmium telluride (CdTe) solar cells gain prominence, one particular challenge is optimizing contacts and their interfaces to transfer charge without losses in efficiency. Back contact recombination is still significant and will prevent CdTe solar technology from reaching its full potential in device efficiency, and transparent back contacts have not been developed for bifacial solar technology or multijunction solar cells. To address these challenges, this study investigates sputtered CuxZn1-xS as a p-type semi-transparent back contact material to thin-film polycrystalline CdTe solar cells at Cu concentrations x = 0.30, 0.45, and 0.60. This material is selected for its high hole conductivity (160-2120 S cm-1), wide optical band gap (2.25-2.75 eV), and variable ionization potential (approximately 6-7 eV) that can be aligned to that of CdTe. We report that without device optimization, CdTe solar cells with these CuxZn1-xS back contacts perform as well as control cells with standard ZnTe:Cu back contacts. We observe no reduction in external quantum efficiency, low contact barrier heights of approximately 0.3 eV, and carrier lifetimes on par with those of baseline CdTe. These cells are relatively stable over one year in air, with VOC and efficiency of the x = 0.30 cell decreasing by only 1 and 3%, respectively. Using scanning electron microscopy and scanning transmission electron microscopy to investigate the CuxZn1-xS/CdTe interface, we demonstrate that the CuxZn1-xS layer segregates into a bilayer of Cu-Te-S and Zn-Cd-S, and thermodynamic reaction calculations support these findings. Despite its bilayer formation, the back contact still functions well. This investigation explains some of the physical mechanisms governing the device stack, inspires future work to understand interfacial chemistry and charge transfer, and elicits optimization to achieve higher-efficiency CdTe cells.

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