Growth and analysis of micro and nano CdTe arrays for solar cell applications

Brandon Adrian Aguirre, University of Texas at El Paso


CdTe is an excellent material for infrared detectors and photovoltaic applications. The efficiency of CdTe/CdS solar cells has increased very rapidly in the last 3 years to ∼20% but is still below the maximum theoretical value of 30%. Although the short-circuit current density is close to its maximum of 30 mA/cm2, the open circuit voltage has potential to be increased further to over 1 Volt. The main limitation that prevents further increase in the open-circuit voltage and therefore efficiency is the high defect density in the CdTe absorber layer. Reducing the defect density will increase the open-circuit voltage above 1 V through an increase in the carrier lifetime and concentration to τ >10 ns and p > 10 16 cm-3, respectively. However, the large lattice mismatch (10%) between CdTe and CdS and the polycrystalline nature of the CdTe film are the fundamental reasons for the high defect density and pose a difficult challenge to solve. In this work, a method to physically and electrically isolate the different kinds of defects at the nanoscale and understand their effect on the electrical performance of CdTe is presented. A SiO2 template with arrays of window openings was deposited between the CdTe and CdS to achieve selective-area growth of the CdTe via close-space sublimation. The diameter of the window openings was varied from the micro to the nanoscale to study the effect of size on nucleation, grain growth, and defect density. The resulting structures enabled the possibility to electrically isolate and individually probe micrometer and nanoscale sized CdTe/CdS cells. Electron back-scattered diffraction was used to observe grain orientation and defects in the miniature cells. Scanning and transmission electron microscopy was used to study the morphology, grain boundaries, grain orientation, defect structure, and strain in the layers. Finally, conducting atomic force microscopy was used to study the current-voltage characteristics of the solar cells. An important part of this work was the ability to directly correlate the one-to-one relationship between the electrical performance and defect structure of individual nanoscale cells. This method is general and can be applied to other material systems to study the electrical-microstructure relationship on a one-to-one basis with nanoscale resolution.

Subject Area

Electrical engineering|Energy|Materials science

Recommended Citation

Aguirre, Brandon Adrian, "Growth and analysis of micro and nano CdTe arrays for solar cell applications" (2014). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI3682447.