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Alternative materials for crystalline silicon solar cells - Risks and implications

Alternative materials for crystalline silicon solar cells - Risks and implications

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KWAPIL, Wolfram, 2010. Alternative materials for crystalline silicon solar cells - Risks and implications [Dissertation]. Konstanz: University of Konstanz

@phdthesis{Kwapil2010Alter-12892, title={Alternative materials for crystalline silicon solar cells - Risks and implications}, year={2010}, author={Kwapil, Wolfram}, address={Konstanz}, school={Universität Konstanz} }

This thesis considers the use of alternative silicon materials for photovoltaics – often termed “upgraded metallurgical grade” silicon – from different angles and evaluates the risks and implications for the wafer and solar cell properties at selected steps along the entire process chain.<br />The properties of the alternative, upgraded metallurgical grade silicon materials analyzed in the course of this thesis were governed by the simultaneous presence of boron and phosphorus in high concentrations (in the order of >2x1016 at/cm3) which has fundamen-tal consequences for the base resistivity, the carrier mobility and the light-induced degra-dation in UMG-Si wafers.<br /><br />Aiming to compare the experimental data to existing models, the majority carrier con-ductivity and Hall mobility of UMG-Si and intentionally compensated wafers doped with various B- and P-concentrations was investigated. In compensated silicon, the mobility decreases significantly firstly with growing sum of both dopants (NA+ND), hence with in-creasing density of ionized scattering centers, and secondly with decreasing net doping concentration p0=(NA-ND), attributed to a weakening of the Coulombic screening of ion-ized atoms. Our measurements suggest that in the commonly accepted model for com-pensated silicon published by Klaassen, the modified Coulombic screening is not correctly implemented. Hence, Klaassen’s model can currently be used safely only in a limited range of NA- and ND-values when regarding compensated silicon (e.g. UMG-Si).<br />A thorough investigation of the light-induced degradation in compensated and UMG Cz-silicon wafers revealed that in general the normalized Cz-defect concentration is a func-tion of the compensation ratio RC, which surprisingly holds for p- as well as for n-type material. For the special case of UMG-Si wafers with p-type net doping concentrations usually used for solar cells, the Cz-defect density can alternatively be described by a lin-ear dependence on the net doping concentration, supporting results obtained by other groups. Therefore, for oxygen-rich UMG-Si the net doping concentration of the feedstock should be reduced in order to minimize the light-induced degradation. This can only be realized by simultaneously decreasing the B- and P-concentration.<br />Although the concentration of transition metals in UMG-Si is not as high as previously expected, it has been worthwhile to test the feasibility of the concept of “defect engineer-ing” via intrinsic gettering and co-precipitation (intentional addition of e.g. Cu to the melt). It was shown that an interaction between the total transition metal content in the melt and the crystallization process has a negative impact on the silicon crystal quality, the harmfulness depending on the impurity elements. Moreover, in carefully prepared NAA measurements the total metal concentration was observed to depend (super-) line-arly on the dislocation density. Both observations point towards a non-linear crystal de-fect generation process being started if the metal content in the melt exceeds a critical level, prohibiting the exploitation of co-precipitation.<br />The optimal design of temperature ramps aimed at intrinsic gettering was demonstrated to depend on the metal species: While intermediate diffusers (Fe, Cr,…) re-precipitate at 600 °C after a high-temperature step (>800 C), the same temperature ramp leads to the dissolution of the large clusters of fast diffusers (Ni,…) being present after mc-Si so-lidification. Subsequently, the fast diffusers spread along grain boundaries and disloca-tions, thus presenting a larger recombination active effective surface than before. Our experiments indicate that for intrinsic gettering of fast diffusers like Ni, lower tempera-tures (around 500°C-550°C) and longer gettering times (12 h) are necessary.<br />However, in NAA measurements the fast diffusers Ni and Cu, and to some extent also Co, were seen to be easily gettered during P-emitter diffusion even at high initial concentra-tions from highly dislocated wafer regions. At the same time, P-diffusion gettering of the intermediate diffusers Fe or Cr from high dislocation density areas is not effective, allow-ing for a significant reduction only in less defected crystal regions.<br />These results implicate that the interplay of extrinsic and intrinsic gettering can be aimed at and optimized for the specific group of intermediate diffusers, since fast diffusers are externally gettered while slow diffusers cannot be mobilized in the interesting tempera-ture and time scale.<br />Reports on inferior reverse characteristics of UMG mc-Si solar cells, possibly posing a danger to the solar modules by generating “hot spots”, incited detailed investigations of the diode breakdown behavior of mc-Si solar cells in general. In this thesis, it was shown that in these devices breakdown happens in three stages termed “early”, “soft” and “hard” breakdown which can be clearly distinguished by their breakdown voltage and reverse I-V characteristics resulting from (at least) three different physical reasons.<br />All three breakdown types have in common that white light is emitted from the break-down sites, pointing at the occurrence of “hot” electrons. It can be concluded that elec-tron multiplication due to avalanching is always involved in a way, possibly initiated by tunneling processes at the beginning.<br />“Early breakdown” sets on at around -4 to -5 V and is presumably induced by surface defects including paste particles from the front as well as from the rear side metallization and small pits in the surface structure. Early breakdown can be explained by a modifica-tion of the emitter leading to a local increase of the electric field in the space charge re-gion. Since early breakdown is highly localized and starts at very low reverse voltages, the local heat generation can become large, possibly being harmful to solar modules. However, in most practical cases the heat remains relatively low.<br />The “soft breakdown” happens exclusively at recombination active crystal defects. XRF-measurements at soft breakdown sites provided strong evidence that it is caused by metal precipitates close to the solar cell surface, i.e. close to or in the space charge re-gion. The onset voltage is influenced by several factors: Both a high impurity concentra-tion and a high base net doping concentration decrease the soft breakdown voltage, as does deep etching of dislocations and grain boundaries during the wet chemical texturiza-tion. Depending on the solar cell properties, the onset voltage of soft breakdown can therefore vary between -8 to -14 V. Due to the wide lateral distribution of recombination active defects and the soft reverse I-V characteristics, it is expected that soft breakdown does not pose any danger to solar modules.<br />To explain the physical mechanism of soft diode breakdown found at the sites of metallic precipitates, a numerical simulation describing the internal Schottky junction between silicide clusters with the surrounding silicon was set up. Under reverse bias in thermody-namic equilibrium, the electric fields around the metal clusters can reach very large val-ues (>5x105 V/cm) which are generally assumed to lead to avalanche electron multiplica-tion.<br />The “hard breakdown” sets on around -14 to -16 V, happening at deeply etched disloca-tions at which no recombination active impurities have accumulated. Due to fast increase of the reverse current with increasing reverse voltage, this breakdown type can be detri-mental if the necessary high reverse voltage is reached.<br />Having clarified the physical mechanisms of diode breakdown in mc-Si solar cells in gen-eral, the relatively high net doping concentration in the base of UMG-Si solar cells was identified to be the main reason for the large reverse currents at low breakdown volt-ages. Since thus, the UMG-Si reverse bias behavior can be attributed to the soft break-down type, we expect that the risk of including UMG-Si solar cells in solar modules is not larger compared to modules consisting of conventional mc-Si cells.<br />In summary, important properties of UMG-Si wafers (low conductivity mobility and mi-nority carrier lifetime, high Cz-defect concentration as well as relatively high reverse cur-rents) are related to the high concentration of boron and phosphorus. Hence, by further reducing their amount in the silicon feedstock, which is currently being done already quite successfully by several feedstock producers, upgraded metallurgical grade silicon is expected to constitute an interesting, cost-effective alternative to conventional material at present and in the near future. However, as optimizations of the solar cell processes have been yielding significantly increasing efficiencies, in the long term, the fate of UMG-Si will depend firstly on its ability to keep up with future process developments, and sec-ondly on the future trend of silicon feedstock prices. 2010 eng Alternative materials for crystalline silicon solar cells - Risks and implications Kwapil, Wolfram terms-of-use Kwapil, Wolfram 2011-05-05T06:46:17Z 2011-05-05T06:46:17Z

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