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Title:Carrier transport, recombination, and the effects of grain boundaries in polycrystalline cadmium telluride thin films for photovoltaics
Author(s):Tuteja, Mohit
Director of Research:Rockett, Angus A.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Rockett, Angus A.
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Abelson, John R.; Ertekin, Elif; Schleife, André
Department / Program:Materials Science & Engineerng
Discipline:Materials Science & Engr
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Cadmium Telluride
Grain Boundaries
Carrier Concentrations
Cadmium Chloride Anneal Treatment
Abstract:Cadmium Telluride (CdTe), a chalcogenide semiconductor, is currently used as the absorber layer in one of the highest efficiency thin film solar cell technologies. Current efficiency records are over 22%. In 2011, CdTe solar cells accounted for ~8% of all solar cells installed. This is because, in part, CdTe has a low degradation rate, high optical absorption coefficient, and high tolerance to intrinsic defects. Solar cells based on polycrystalline CdTe exhibit a higher short-circuit current, fill factor, and power conversion efficiency than their single crystal counterparts. This is despite the fact that polycrystalline CdTe devices exhibit lower open-circuit voltages. This is contrary to the observation for silicon and III-V semiconductors, where material defects cause a dramatic drop in device performance. For example, grain boundaries in covalently-bonded semiconductors (a) act as carrier recombination centers, and (b) lead to localized energy states, causing carrier trapping. Despite significant research to date, the mechanism responsible for the superior current collection properties of polycrystalline CdTe solar cells has not been conclusively answered. This dissertation focuses on the macro-scale electronic band structure, and micro scale electronic properties of grains and grain boundaries in device-grade CdTe thin films to answer this open question. My research utilized a variety of experimental techniques. Samples were obtained from leading groups fabricating the material and devices. A CdCl2 anneal is commonly performed as part of this fabrication and its effects were also investigated. Photoluminescence (PL) spectroscopy was employed to study the band structure and defect states in CdTe polycrystals. Cadmium vacancy- and chlorine-related states lead to carrier recombination, as in CdTe films grown by other methods. Comparing polycrystalline and single crystal CdTe, showed that the key to explaining the improved performance of polycrystalline CdTe does not lie in macroscopic analysis. The nanoscale majority carrier concentration was studied using scanning microwave impedance microscopy, which revealed an existence of majority carrier depletion along the grain boundaries, independent of the growth process used, which was absent in films that were not subjected to CdCl2 annealing. This effect promotes carrier separation and collection. Conductive atomic force microscopy showed enhanced conduction of electrons along the grain boundaries in samples subjected to the CdCl2 anneal treatment while holes were shown to move through the grain bulk. The separation of conduction channels minimizes recombination while simultaneously reducing series resistance and hence enhancing fill factor. Several technical capabilities demonstrated in this work can be easily extended to other semiconductor materials.
Issue Date:2016-11-16
Rights Information:All rights reserved by Mohit Tuteja.
Date Available in IDEALS:2017-03-01
Date Deposited:2016-12

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