When 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM May 31, 2013
Where 1005 HH Dow
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Electrical and Optical Properties of Upgraded Metallurgical Grade Silicon Solar Cells


Jae Young Kwon
Thesis Defense

Akram Boukai, Advisor

 

 

Silicon(Si) accounts for more than ~90% of solar cell market due to its advantages of  earth abundance, good reliability, performance, and a wealth of Si materials processing knowledge.  However, as the photovoltaic industry matures, there have been more demands on lowering the cost of solar cells, which is mainly dominated by the cost of starting materials. Currently two major approaches are pursued to reduce the cost of Si- based solar cells per watt: the adoption of low-cost silicon such as metallurgical-grade (MG) Si or upgraded metallurgical-grade (UMG) Si, and reducing the usage of Si by producing ultrathin solar modules. UMG-Si is generally obtained by special heat treatment of MG- Si and it is a much cost–efficient material compared to the solar-grade Si. However, UMG-Si contains high level of various metal impurities and defects which leads to diminished diffusion length and poor performance.  Therefore, in order to achieve efficient photo-generated charge collection from a p-n junction made from low quality Si, the thickness of the solar cell should be within the diffusion length, particularly less than ~ 20 µm for the application of UMG-Si. Si thickness in this range does not allow sufficient light absorption and thus, designing of the structure of ultrathin solar cells to have optically thick active layer, so that the light absorbance can be improved, becomes very important.
Strategies to enhance optical absorbance in the solar cells include dielectric-anti reflection coating, surface texturing and exploitation of surface plasmon resonance. Among them, the surface plasmon resonance, which is the collective oscillation of conduction electrons stimulated by incident light at the interface between a metallic (Ag, Au, Pt) nanostructure and a dielectric, has been an emerging method for achieving the light trapping in ultrathin Si solar cells.
This thesis presents ultrathin Si solar cells generated from UMG-Si wafers incorporating combinations of nanostructures that enable use of surface plasmon resonance, light scattering feature, and anti-reflection layers. Detailed studies of electrical and optical properties of the resulting solar cells provide useful design considerations for future MG-Si and any classes of solar cell systems.

Silicon(Si) accounts for more than ~90% of solar cell market due to its advantages of  earth abundance, good reliability, performance, and a wealth of Si materials processing knowledge.  However, as the photovoltaic industry matures, there have been more demands on lowering the cost of solar cells, which is mainly dominated by the cost of starting materials. Currently two major approaches are pursued to reduce the cost of Si- based solar cells per watt: the adoption of low-cost silicon such as metallurgical-grade (MG) Si or upgraded metallurgical-grade (UMG) Si, and reducing the usage of Si by producing ultrathin solar modules. UMG-Si is generally obtained by special heat treatment of MG- Si and it is a much cost–efficient material compared to the solar-grade Si. However, UMG-Si contains high level of various metal impurities and defects which leads to diminished diffusion length and poor performance.  Therefore, in order to achieve efficient photo-generated charge collection from a p-n junction made from low quality Si, the thickness of the solar cell should be within the diffusion length, particularly less than ~ 20 µm for the application of UMG-Si. Si thickness in this range does not allow sufficient light absorption and thus, designing of the structure of ultrathin solar cells to have optically thick active layer, so that the light absorbance can be improved, becomes very important.Strategies to enhance optical absorbance in the solar cells include dielectric-anti reflection coating, surface texturing and exploitation of surface plasmon resonance. Among them, the surface plasmon resonance, which is the collective oscillation of conduction electrons stimulated by incident light at the interface between a metallic (Ag, Au, Pt) nanostructure and a dielectric, has been an emerging method for achieving the light trapping in ultrathin Si solar cells. This thesis presents ultrathin Si solar cells generated from UMG-Si wafers incorporating combinations of nanostructures that enable use of surface plasmon resonance, light scattering feature, and anti-reflection layers. Detailed studies of electrical and optical properties of the resulting solar cells provide useful design considerations for future MG-Si and any classes of solar cell systems.