Understanding of defect passivation and its effect on multicrystalline silicon solar cell performance
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Photovoltaics (PV) offers a unique opportunity to solve energy and environmental problems simultaneously since the solar energy is essentially free, unlimited, and not localized any part of the world. Currently, more than 90% of PV modules are produced from crystalline Si. However, wafer preparation of cast multicrystalline Si materials account for more than 40% of the PV module manufacturing cost, which can be significantly reduced by introducing the ribbon-type Si materials. Edge-defined film-fed grown (EFG) and String Ribbon Si materials are among the promising candidates for the cost-effective PV because they are grown directly from the Si melt, which eliminates the need for ingot slicing and chemical etch for surface preparation. However, the growth of these ribbon Si materials leads to relatively high concentration of metallic impurities and structural defects, resulting in very low as-grown carrier lifetime of less than 5 µs. Therefore, the challenge is to produce high-efficiency cells on EFG and String Ribbon Si by enhancing the carrier lifetime during the cell processing and to understand the effect of electrically active defects on cell performance through in-depth device characterization and modeling. The research tasks of this thesis focus on the understanding, development, and implementation of defect passivation to enhance the bulk carrier lifetime in ribbon Si materials for achieving high-efficiency cells. It is shown in this thesis that the release of hydrogen from SiNx layer is initially rapid and then slows down with time. However, the dissociation of hydrogen from defects continues at the same pace. Therefore, a short firing provides an effective defect passivation. An optimized hydrogenation process produces a record high-efficiency ribbon Si cells (4.0 cm2) with photolithography (18.3%) and screen-printed (16.8%) contacts. However, active defects are still present even after the optimized hydrogenation process. An analytical model is developed to assess the impact of inhomogeneously distributed active defects on cell performance, and the model is applied to establish the roadmap for achieving high-efficiency ribbon Si cells in the presence of defects. Finally, PC1D simulations reveal that the successful implementation of the surface texturing can raise the cell efficiency to 18%.