Improved conversion efficiency of amorphous Si solar cells using a mesoporous ZnO pattern
- Bit-Na Go†1,
- Yang Doo Kim†1,
- Kyoung suk Oh1, 2,
- Chaehyun Kim1,
- Hak-Jong Choi1 and
- Heon Lee1Email author
© Go et al.; licensee Springer. 2014
Received: 25 June 2014
Accepted: 7 September 2014
Published: 11 September 2014
To provide a front transparent electrode for use in highly efficient hydrogenated amorphous silicon (a-Si:H) thin-film solar cells, porous flat layer and micro-patterns of zinc oxide (ZnO) nanoparticle (NP) layers were prepared through ultraviolet nanoimprint lithography (UV-NIL) and deposited on Al-doped ZnO (AZO) layers. Through this, it was found that a porous micro-pattern of ZnO NPs dispersed in resin can optimize the light-trapping pattern, with the efficiency of solar cells based on patterned or flat mesoporous ZnO layers increased by 27% and 12%, respectively.
An effective light-trapping scheme is an extremely important aspect of Si thin-film solar cell technology, as the inherently thin nature of the light-absorbing layer restricts their long-wavelength light absorption, resulting in a low short-circuit current density (J sc ) and power conversion efficiency (PCE)[1–6]. By forming a rough surface morphology on the front transparent electrode, however, the incident light is scattered; thereby increasing the light path length and the probability of light being absorbed within the very thin light-absorbing layer[7–9]. Since the efficiency of this light trapping can be improved by optimizing the front electrode, there is a need to understand the light-trapping capabilities of various surface morphologies. Recently, a variety of light-trapping structures have been created in Si thin-film solar cells through the use of nanoimprint lithography[10, 11]. This process is considered one of the most efficient tools for designing light-trapping structures, as it offers a number of advantages in terms of the following: high throughput with a large area, high resolution (~10 nm), simplicity, and low cost[12–16].
In addition to the light-scattering effect of a rough surface, refractive index engineering provides another functional technique for increasing the light absorption within Si thin-film solar cells. This is based on the fact that a large portion of incident light is reflected at the interface formed between layers with a large difference in refractive index, which can be minimized by introducing an additional layer with an intermediate refractive index to create a more gradual change. In this study, we formed mesoporous ZnO pattern on glass substrates for light-scattering effect by using ultraviolet nanoimprint lithography (UV-NIL)[17, 18]. The mesoporous ZnO pattern provides strong scattering of light since it has two light-scattering centers. One light-scattering center is optical-function pattern which exhibit excellent light-scattering capabilities. Another light-scattering center is air pores within the mesoporous ZnO layer which significantly enhance light-scattering effect. We fabricated three types of substrates which consisted of flat mesoporous ZnO, mesoporous ZnO pattern, and wet-etched AZO, and performances of a-Si:H thin-film solar cells on three types of substrates were compared to that on flat AZO (reference solar cell).
In order to increase the adhesion between the glass substrate and ZnO NP resin, the glass surface was subjected to UV-ozone treatment for 5 min to remove impurities and render it hydrophilic. The ZnO NP resin dispersion was formulated using a mixture of 10 g of benzyl methacrylate (BzMA) (Sigma-Aldrich, St. Louis, MO, USA) monomer, 8 g of ZnO NP solution (Ditto Technology, Gyeonggi-do, Seoul, South Korea, <130 nm, ethanol base 40 wt%), and 2 g of UV photoinitiator (Irgacure 184) (Sigma-Aldrich, St. Louis, MO, USA); which was then spin-coated onto the glass substrate at rate of 2,000 rpm for 30 s (Figure 1c).
The PDMS replica mold was immediately contacted with the spin-coated ZnO NP resin and then held at pressure of 5 bar for 15 min to ensure vaporization of the resin solvent complete filling of the PDMS replica mold. Next, the PDMS replica mold was exposed to UV radiation for 20 min to indurate the ZnO NP resin pattern and was then removed (Figure 1d). By UV nanoimprinting the PDMS mold into the ZnO NP layer, a high-fidelity replication of the master stamp pattern was achieved. The ZnO NP pattern was then annealed at 500°C for 1 h to remove any remaining solvent and impurities (Figure 1e), leaving a mesoporous ZnO pattern on glass. Finally, an AZO layer was deposited onto this mesoporous ZnO pattern by RF magnetron sputtering, using an AZO target composed of 98% ZnO and 2% Al2O3 (Figure 1f).
To study the effects of the mesoporous ZnO pattern on the performance of a-Si:H thin-film solar cells, 250-nm-thick single-junction a-Si p-i-n layers were deposited onto the prepared electrode by plasma-enhanced chemical vapor deposition (PECVD) (Figure 1g). The p-type layer was deposited using SiH4, H2, and B2H6; the intrinsic layer (i-layer) was deposited using a mixture of H2 and SiH4 gases; and the n-type layer was deposited using SiH4, H2, and PH3. To complete the cell, an Ag electrode was deposited onto the a-Si p-i-n layers by a thermal evaporator (Figure 1h).
The surface morphology of the patterned ZnO NP layers was characterized by scanning electron microscopy (SEM) (Horiba EX-200, Horiba, Minami-Ku, Kyoto, Japan) and atomic force microscopy (AFM) (XE-100). Optical characterization of the four substrates (flat AZO, flat AZO with flat mesoporous ZnO, AZO with mesoporous ZnO pattern, and wet-etched AZO) was performed using a UV-visible spectrometer equipped with an integrating sphere (Jasco V-650, Easton, MD, USA). Cross-sectional images of the a-Si:H thin-film solar cells were obtained by focused-ion-beam SEM (FIB-SEM, FEI Nova 600 Dual Beam FIB, Center for Electron Microscopy and Analysis, Columbus, OH, USA). Photocurrent density-voltage (J–V) measurements of the cells were performed using a solar simulator under standard test conditions (25°C, AM 1.5, 100 mW/cm2) and from the external quantum efficiency (EQE) measured at zero bias.
Results and discussion
Characteristics of a-Si:H thin-film solar cells grown on four different substrates
Flat mesoporous ZnO
Mesoporous ZnO pattern
From Figure 5b and Table 1, it is evident that the fill factor (FF) of a-Si:H thin-film solar cells on mesoporous patterned ZnO and wet-etched AZO is increased, despite the rougher surface of the AZO layer. This can be attributed to the short charge transport path within the cells, in that the thickness of the layer in the direction of the local surface normal is less than in the deposition direction. This shorter charge transport path lowers the series resistance, thus increasing the FF.
Two different types of light-scattering centers were successfully produced in the form of an optical-function pattern and air pores in mesoporous ZnO and were shown to increase the light path in the absorption layer and the light absorption capability. The combination of both light-scattering centers in patterned mesoporous ZnO produced better performance the single center present in flat mesoporous ZnO or wet-etched AZO substrates. Nevertheless, a-Si:H thin-film solar-cells based on any one of these three types of substrate exhibit a higher J sc and conversion efficiency than a cell based on a flat substrate; though the best performance is achieved with a mesoporous ZnO pattern, with a 22.1% and 26.6% increase in J sc and conversion efficiency, respectively.
This research was supported by the R&D Program for Industrial Core Technology through the Korea Evaluation Institute of Industrial Technology supported by the Ministry of Knowledge Economy in Korea (Grant No. 10040225), and this research was conducted by International Collaborative Research and Development Program and funded by Ministry of Trade, Industry & Energy.
- Lechner P, Schade H: Photovoltaic thin‒film technology based on hydrogenated amorphous silicon. Prog Photovolt Res Appl 2002, 10: 85. 10.1002/pip.412View ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Daif OE, Drouard E, Gomard G, Kaminski A, Fave A, Lemiti M, Ahn S, Kim S, Cabarrocas PR, Jeon H, Seassal C: Absorbing one-dimensional planar photonic crystal for amorphous silicon solar cell. Opt Express 2010, 18: A293. 10.1364/OE.18.00A293View ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Luque A, Hegedus S: Handbook of Photovoltaic Science and Engineering. Chichester: Wiley; 2003.View ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Park NM, Kim TS, Park SJ: Band gap engineering of amorphous silicon quantum dots for light-emitting diodes. Appl Phys Lett 2001, 78: 2575. 10.1063/1.1367277View ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Unuma H, Tonooka K, Suzuki Y: Preparation of transparent amorphous tungsten trioxide thin films by a dip-coating method. J Mater Sci 1986, 5: 1248.Google Scholar
- Kim KK, Kim HS, Hwang DK, Lim JH, Park SJ: Realization of p-type ZnO thin films via phosphorus doping and thermal activation of the dopant. Appl Phys Lett 2003, 83: 63. 10.1063/1.1591064View ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Deckman HW, Wronski CR, Witske H, Yablonovitch E: Optically enhanced amorphous silicon solar cells. Appl Phys Lett 1983, 42: 968. 10.1063/1.93817View ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Wiersma DS, Bartolini P, Lagendijk A, Righini R: Localization of light in a disordered medium. Nature 1997, 390: 671.View ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Eminian C, Haug FJ, Cubero O, Niquille X, Ballif C: Photocurrent enhancement in thin film amorphous silicon solar cells with silver nanoparticles. Prog Photovolt 2011, 19: 260. 10.1002/pip.1015View ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Battaglia C, Escarre J, Soderstrom K, Charriere M, Despeisse M, Haug FJ, Ballif C: Nanomoulding of transparent zinc oxide electrodes for efficient light trapping in solar cells. Nat Photonics 2011, 5: 535. 10.1038/nphoton.2011.198View ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Battaglia C, Escarré J, Söderström K, Erni L, Ding L, Bugnon G, Billet A, Boccard M, Barraud L, Wolf SD, Haug FJ, Despeisse M, Ballif C: Nanoimprint lithography for high-efficiency thin-film silicon solar cells. Nano Lett 2011, 11: 661. 10.1021/nl1037787View ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Byeon KJ, Lee H: Recent progress in direct patterning technologies based on nano-imprint lithography. Europ Phys J Appl Phys 2012, 59: 10001. 10.1051/epjap/2012120166View ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Byeon KJ, Hwang SY, Lee H: Fabrication of two-dimensional photonic crystal patterns on GaN-based light-emitting diodes using thermally curable monomer-based nanoimprint lithography. Appl Phys Lett 2007, 91: 091106. 10.1063/1.2776980View ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Hong SH, Bae BJ, Lee H, Jeong JH: Fabrication of high density nano-pillar type phase change memory devices using flexible AAO shaped template. Microelectron Eng 2010, 87: 2081. 10.1016/j.mee.2010.01.001View ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Chou SY, Krauss PR, Renstrom PJ: Nanoimprint lithography. J Vac Sci Technol B 1996, 14: 4129. 10.1116/1.588605View ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Muller J, Rech B, Springer J, Vanecek M: TCO and light trapping in silicon thin film solar cells. Sol Energy 2004, 77: 917. 10.1016/j.solener.2004.03.015View ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Jo HB, Byeon KJ, Lee H, Kwon MH, Choi KW: Fabrication of ZnO nano-structures using UV nanoimprint lithography of a ZnO nano-particle dispersion resin. J Mater Chem 2012, 22: 20742. 10.1039/c2jm32509hView ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Jeong JH, Sim Y, Sohn H, Lee E: A step-and-repeat UV-nanoimprint lithography process using an elementwise patterned stamp. Microelectron Eng 2004, 75: 165. 10.1016/j.mee.2004.04.003View ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Tadatomo K, Okagawa H, Ohuch Y, Tsunekawa T, Jyouichi T, Imada Y, Kato M, Kudo H, Taguchi T: High output power InGaN ultraviolet light-emitting diodes fabricated on patterned substrates using metalorganic vapor phase epitaxy. Phys Status Solidi 2001, 188: 121. 10.1002/1521-396X(200111)188:1<121::AID-PSSA121>3.0.CO;2-GView ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Lee JH, Lee DY, Oh BW, Lee JH: Comparison of InGaN-based LEDs grown on conventional sapphire and cone-shape-patterned sapphire substrate. IEEE Trans Electron Devices 2010, 57: 157.View ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Wuu DS, Wang WK, Wen KS, Huang SC, Lin SH, Horng RH, Yu YS, Pan MH: Fabrication of pyramidal patterned sapphire substrates for high-efficiency InGaN-based light emitting diodes. J Electrochem Soc 2006, 153: G765. 10.1149/1.2209587View ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Oh SC, Yang KY, Byeon KJ, Shin JH, Kim YD, Do LM, Choi KW, Lee H: Various metallic nano-sized patterns fabricated using an Ag ink printing technique. Electron Mater Lett 2012, 8: 485. 10.1007/s13391-012-2053-7View ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Choi JH, Jo HB, Choi HJ, Lee H: Fabrication of TiO2 nano-to-microscale structures using UV nanoimprint lithography. Nanotechnol 2013, 24: 195301. 10.1088/0957-4484/24/19/195301View ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Toepke MW, Beebe DJ: PDMS absorption of small molecules and consequences in microfluidic applications. Royal Soc Chem 2006, 6: 1484.Google Scholar
- Xu ZQ, Li J, Yang JP, Cheng PP, Zhao J, Lee ST, Li YQ, Tang JX: Enhanced performance in polymer photovoltaic cells with chloroform treated indium tin oxide anode modification. Appl Phys Let 2011, 98: 253303. 10.1063/1.3601853View ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Escarre J, Soderstrom K, Battaglia C, Haug FJ, Ballif C: High fidelity transfer of nanometric random textures by UV embossing for thin film solar cells applications. Sol Energy Mater Sol Cells 2011, 95: 881. 10.1016/j.solmat.2010.11.010View ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Eriksson J, Khranovskyy V, Söderlind F, Käll PO, Yakimova R, Spetz AL: ZnO nanoparticles or ZnO films: a comparison of the gas sensing capabilities. Sens Actuators B 2009, 137: 94. 10.1016/j.snb.2008.10.072View ArticleGoogle Scholar
This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly credited.