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Title: High rate deposition processes for thin film CdTe solar cells
Author: Lisco, Fabiana
ISNI:       0000 0004 5352 8204
Awarding Body: Loughborough University
Current Institution: Loughborough University
Date of Award: 2015
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This thesis describes the development of a fast rate method for the deposition of high quality CdS and CdTe thin films. The technique uses Pulsed DC Magnetron Sputtering (PDCMS). Surprisingly, the technique produces highly stable process conditions. CREST is the first laboratory worldwide to show that pulsed DC power may be used to deposit CdS and CdTe thin films. This is a very promising process technology with potential for eventual industrial deployment. The major advantage is that the process produces high deposition rates suitable for use in solar module manufacturing. These rates are over an order of magnitude faster than those obtained by RF sputtering. In common with other applications it has also been found that the energetics of the pulsed DC process produce excellent thin film properties and the power supply configuration avoids the need for complex matching circuits. Conventional deposition methodologies for CdS, Chemical Bath Deposition (CBD) and CdTe thin films, Electrodeposition (ED), have been chosen as baselines to compare film properties with Pulsed DC Magnetron Sputtering (PDCMS). One of the issues encountered with the deposition of CdS thin films (window layers) was the presence of pinholes. A Plasma cleaning process of FTO-coated glass prior to the deposition of the CdS/CdTe solar cell has been developed. It strongly modifies and activates the TCO surface, and improves the density and compactness of the deposited CdS thin film. This, in turn, improves the optical and morphological properties of the deposited CdS thin films, resulting in a higher refractive index. The pinhole removal and the increased density allows the use of a much thinner CdS layer, and this reduces absorption of blue spectrum photons and thereby increases the photocurrent and the efficiency of the thin film CdTe cell. Replacing the conventional magnetic stirrer with an ultrasonic probe in the chemical bath (sonoCBD) was found to result in CdS films with higher optical density, higher refractive index, pinhole and void-free, more compact and uniform along the surface and through the thickness of the deposited material. PDCMS at 150 kHz, 500 W, 2.5 μs, 2 s, results in a highly stable process with no plasma arcing. It allows close control of film thickness using time only. The CdS films exhibited a high level of texture in the <001> direction. The grain size was typically ~50 nm. Pinholes and voids could be avoided by reducing the working gas pressure using gas flows ii below 20 sccm. The deposition rate was measured to be 1.33 nm/s on a rotating substrate holder. The equivalent deposition rate for a static substrate is 8.66 nm/s, which is high and much faster than can be achieved using a chemical bath deposition or RF magnetron sputtering. The transmission of CdS can be improved by engineering the band gap of the CdS layer. It has been shown that by adding oxygen to the working gas pressure in an RF sputtering deposition process it is possible to deposit an oxygenated CdS (CdS:O) layer with an improved band gap. In this thesis, oxygenated CdS films for CdTe TF-PV applications have been successfully deposited by using pulsed DC magnetron sputtering. The process is highly stable using a pulse frequency of 150 kHz and a 2.5 μs pulse reverse time. No plasma arcing was detected. A range of CdS:O films were deposited by using O2 flows from 1 sccm to 10 sccm during the deposition process. The deposition rates achieved using pulsed DC magnetron sputtering with only 500 W of power to the magnetron target were in the range ~1.49 nm/s ~2.44 nm/s, depending on the oxygen flow rate used. The properties of CdS thin films deposited by pulsed DC magnetron sputtering and chemical bath deposition have been studied and compared. The pulsed DC magnetron sputtering process produced CdS thin films with the preferred hexagonal <001> oriented crystalline structure with a columnar grain growth, while sonoCBD deposited films were polycrystalline with a cubic structure and small grainy crystallites throughout the thickness of the films. Examination of the PDCMS deposited CdS films confirmed the increased grain size, increased density, and higher crystallinity compared to the sonoCBD CdS films. The deposition rate for CdS obtained using pulsed DC magnetron sputtering was 2.86 nm/s using only 500 W power on a six inch circular target compared to the much slower (0.027 nm/s) for the sonoChemical bath deposited layers. CdTe thin films were grown on CdS films prepared by sonoCBD and Pulsed DC magnetron sputtering. The results showed that the deposition technique used for the CdS layer affected the growth and properties of the CdTe film and also determined the deposition rate of CdTe, being 3 times faster on the sputtered CdS. PDCMS CdTe layers were deposited at ambient temperature, 500 W, 2.9 μs, 10 s, 150 kHz, with a thickness of approximately 2 μm on CdS/TEC10 coated glass. The layers appear iii uniform and smooth with a grain size less than 100 nm, highly compact with the morphology dominated by columnar grain growth. Stress analysis was performed on the CdTe layers deposited at room temperature using different gas flows. Magnetron sputtered thin films deposited under low gas pressure are often subject to compressive stress due to the high mobility of the atoms during the deposition process. A possible way to reduce the stress in the film is the post-deposition annealing treatment. As the lattice parameter increased; the stress in the film is relieved. Also, a changing the deposition substrate temperature had an effect on the microstructure of CdTe thin films. Increasing the deposition temperature increased the grain size, up to ~600 nm. CdTe thin films with low stress have been deposited on CdS/TEC10 coated glass by setting the deposition substrate temperature at ~200°C and using high argon flows ~ 70 sccm Ar. Finally, broadband multilayer ARCs using alternate high and low refractive index dielectric thin films have been developed to improve the light transmission into solar cell devices by reducing the reflection of the glass in the extended wavelength range utilised by thin-film CdTe devices. A four-layer multilayer stack has been designed and tested, which operates across the wavelength range used by thin-film CdTe PV devices (400 850 nm). Optical modelling predicts that the MAR coating reduces the WAR (400-850 nm) from the glass surface from 4.22% down to 1.22%. The application of the MAR coating on a thin-film CdTe solar cell increased the efficiency from 10.55% to 10.93% or by 0.38% in absolute terms. This is a useful 3.6% relative increase in efficiency. The increased light transmission leads to improvement of the short-circuit current density produced by the cell by 0.65 mA/cm2. The MAR sputtering process developed in this work is capable of scaling to an industrial level.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: EPSRC
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: CdS and CdTe thin films ; Chemical Bath Deposition (CBD) ; Sonochemical bath deposition (sono-CBD) ; Pulsed DC magnetron sputtering (PDCMS) ; Electrodeposition (ED)