Development of n-ZnO/p-Si single heterojunction solar cell with and without interfacial layer
The conversion efficiency of conventional silicon (Si) photovoltaic cells has not been improved significantly during last two decades but their cost decreased dramatically during this time. However, the higher price-per-watt of solar cells is still the main bottleneck in their widespread use for power generation. Therefore, new materials need to be explored for the fabrication of solar cells potentially with lower cost and higher efficiency. The n-type zinc oxide (n-ZnO) and p-type Si (p-Si) based single heterojunction solar cell (SHJSC) is one of the several attempts to replace conventional Si single homojunction solar cell technology. There are three inadequacies in the literature related to n-ZnO/p-Si SHJSC: (1) a detailed theoretical analysis to evaluate potential of the solar cell structure, (2) inconsistencies in the reported value of open circuit voltage (VOC) of the solar cell, and (3) lower value of experimentally achieved VOC as compared to theoretical prediction based on band-bending between n-ZnO and p-Si. Furthermore, the scientific community lacks consensus on the optimum growth parameters of ZnO.In this dissertation, I present simulation and experimental results related to n-ZnO/p-Si SHJSC to fill the gaps mentioned above. Modeling and simulation of the solar cell structure are performed using PC1D and AFORS-HET software taking practical constraints into account to explore the potential of the structure. Also, unnoticed benefits of ZnO in solar cells such as an additional antireflection (AR) effect and low temperature deposition are highlighted. The growth parameters of ZnO using metal organic chemical vapor deposition and sputtering are optimized. The structural, optical, and electrical characterization of ZnO thin films grown on sapphire and Si substrates is performed. Several n-ZnO/p-Si SHJSC devices are fabricated to confirm the repeatability of the VOC. Moreover, the AR effect of ZnO while working as an n-type layer is experimentally verified. The spatial analysis for thickness uniformity and optical quality of ZnO films is carried out. These properties turn out to play a fundamental role in device performance and so far have been overlooked by the research community. Three different materials are used as a quantum buffer layer at the interface of ZnO and Si to suppress the interface states and improve the VOC. The best measured value of VOC of 359 mV is achieved using amorphous-ZnO (a-ZnO) as the buffer layer at the interface. Finally, supplementary simulations are performed to optimize the valence-band and conduction-band offsets by engineering the bandgap and electron affinity of ZnO.After we published our initial results related to the feasibility of n-ZnO/p-Si SHJSC [Sol. Energ. Mat. Sol. Cells 139 (2015) 95–100], different research groups have fabricated and reported the solar cell performance with the best efficiency of 7.1% demonstrated very recently by Pietruszka et al. [Sol. Energ. Mat. Sol. Cells 147 (2016) 164–170]. We conclude that major challenge in n-ZnO/p-Si SHJSC is to overcome Fermi-level pinning at the hetero-interface. A potential solution is to use the appropriate material as buffer layer which is confirmed by observing an improvement in VOC using a-ZnO at the interface as buffer layer. Once the interface quality is improved and the experimental value of VOC matched the theoretical prediction, the n-ZnO/p-Si SHJSC can potentially have significant contribution in solar cells industry.