Development of high-efficiency boron diffused silicon solar cells
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The objective of the proposed research is to develop low-cost, screen-printed 20% efficient silicon solar cells. In the first part of this thesis, a ~19% efficient, screen-printed cell was fabricated using the commercially-dominant aluminum back surface field (Al-BSF) cell structure. Device modeling was then used to determine that increasing the efficiency to 20% required improvements in both back surface passivation and rear reflectance. In the second part of this thesis, a passivated, transparent boron BSF (B-BSF) structure was proposed as a high-throughput method for realizing these improvements. The first step in fabricating the proposed B-BSF cell involved the successful development of a water-based, spin-on solution of boric acid as a low-cost, non-toxic and non-pyrophoric alternative to common boron diffusion sources such as boron tribromide. A review of the literature shows that a common problem with boron diffusion is severe bulk lifetime degradation, with Fe contamination being commonly speculated as the cause. An experimental study was therefore devised in which the impact of boron diffusion and subsequent cell process steps on the bulk lifetime and bulk iron contamination was tracked. From this study, a model for boron diffusion-induced Fe contamination was developed along with methods for gettering Fe from the substrate. A key achievement of this thesis was the discovery of a novel, negatively charged, aluminum-doped spin-on glass (SOG) which can, in a short thermal step, simultaneously getter Fe and provide stable, high-quality passivation of planar, boron-diffused Si surfaces. Since past attempts at achieving low-cost, high-efficiency, boron-diffused cells have suffered from bulk lifetime degradation and difficulties with passivating a boron-diffused Si surface, the Al-doped SOG provides a solution to both challenges. Since a high rear reflectance is important for achieving high-efficiencies, an experimental study of various reflectors was undertaken and a silver colloid material was found which exhibits both high electrical conductivity and Lambertian reflectance >95%. The work on boric acid diffusion, iron gettering, surface passivation and rear reflectors was successfully integrated into a 20.2% efficient, screen-printed, B-BSF cell fabricated on 300 µm thick, p-type float-zone (FZ) Si wafers. Both device theory and modeling was used to show that, due to its well-passivated surfaces, this cell would suffer a large loss in efficiency due to light-induced degradation (LID) if it were fabricated on commercial p-type Czochralski (Cz) Si substrates. Since n-type Si substrates do not suffer from LID, the p-type process was slightly tweaked and applied to n-type FZ wafers, resulting in 20.3% efficient cells on 190 µm thick wafers. Computer modeling shows that both the p-type and n-type cells can maintain efficiencies of 20% for wafers as thin as 100 µm.