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Molecular solution processing of metal chalcogenide thin film solar cells


The barrier to utilize solar generated electricity mainly comes from their higher cost relative to fossil fuels. However, innovations with new materials and processing techniques can potentially make cost effective photovoltaics. One such strategy is to develop solution processed photovoltaics which avoid the expensive vacuum processing required by traditional solar cells. The dissertation is mainly focused on two absorber material system for thin film solar cells: chalcopyrite CuIn(S,Se)2 (CISS) and kesterite Cu2ZnSn(S,Se)4 organized in chronological order.

Chalcopyrite CISS is a very promising material. It has been demonstrated to achieve the highest efficiency among thin film solar cells. Scaled-up industry production at present has reached the giga-watt per year level. The process however mainly relies on vacuum systems which account for a significant percentage of the manufacturing cost. In the first section of this dissertation, hydrazine based solution processed CISS has been explored. The focus of the research involves the procedures to fabricate devices from solution. The topics covered in Chapter 2 include: precursor solution synthesis with a focus on understanding the solution chemistry, CISS absorber formation from precursor, properties modification toward favorable device performance, and device structure innovation toward tandem device.

For photovoltaics to have a significant impact toward meeting energy demands, the annual production capability needs to be on TW-level. On such a level, raw materials supply of rare elements (indium for CIS or tellurium for CdTe) will be the bottleneck limiting the scalability. Replacing indium with zinc and tin, earth abundant kesterite CZTS exhibits great potential to reach the goal of TW-level with no limitations on raw material availability. Chapter 3 shows pioneering work towards solution processing of CZTS film at low temperature. The solution processed devices show performances which rival vacuum-based techniques and is partially attributed to the ease in controlling composition and CZTS phase through this technique. Based on this platform, comprehensive characterization on CZTS devices is carried out including solar cells and transistors. Especially defects properties are exploited in Chapter 4 targeting to identify the limiting factors for further improvement on CZTS solar cells efficiency. Finally, molecular structures and precursor solution stability have been explored, potentially to provide a universal approach to process multinary compounds.

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