Cadmium Free Buffer Layers and the Influence of their Material Properties on the Performance of Cu(In,Ga)Se2 Solar Cells

Abstract: CdS is conventionally used as a buffer layer in Cu(In,Ga)Se2, CIGS, solar cells. The aim of this thesis is to substitute CdS with cadmium-free, more transparent and environmentally benign alternative buffer layers and to analyze how the material properties of alternative layers affect the solar cell performance. The alternative buffer layers have been deposited using Atomic Layer Deposition, ALD. A theoretical explanation for the success of CdS is that its conduction band, Ec, forms a small positive offset with that of CIGS. In one of the studies in this thesis the theory is tested experimentally by changing both the Ec position of the CIGS and of Zn(O,S) buffer layers through changing their gallium and sulfur contents respectively. Surprisingly, the top performing solar cells for all gallium contents have Zn(O,S) buffer layers with the same sulfur content and properties in spite of predicted unfavorable Ec offsets. An explanation is proposed based on observed non-homogenous composition in the buffer layer. This thesis also shows that the solar cell performance is strongly related to the resistivity of alternative buffer layers made of (Zn,Mg)O. A tentative explanation is that a high resistivity reduces the influence of shunt paths at the buffer layer/absorber interface. For devices in operation however, it seems beneficial to induce persistent photoconductivity, by light soaking, which can reduce the effective Ec barrier at the interface and thereby improve the fill factor of the solar cells. Zn-Sn-O is introduced as a new buffer layer in this thesis. The initial studies show that solar cells with Zn-Sn-O buffer layers have comparable performance to the CdS reference devices. While an intrinsic ZnO layer is required for a high reproducibility and performance of solar cells with CdS buffer layers it is shown in this thesis that it can be thinned if Zn(O,S) or omitted if (Zn,Mg)O buffer layers are used instead. As a result, a top conversion efficiency of 18.1 % was achieved with an (Zn,Mg)O buffer layer, a record for a cadmium and sulfur free CIGS solar cell.