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Theses Doctoral

Laser Surface Texturing, Crystallization and Scribing of Thin Films in Solar Cell Applications

Wang, Hongliang

Thin films have been considered for use in terrestrial solar cell applications because of their significantly reduced cost compared with bulk crystalline silicon. However, their overall efficiency and stability are less than that of their bulk crystalline counterpart. The work presented in this thesis seeks to investigate these issues via a series of experimental and numerical analysis of the influences of laser processing on microstructure, optical and electrical properties of two absorber materials, a-Si:H (hydrogenated amorphous silicon) and CdTe (cadmium telluride). a-Si:H thin film solar cells suffer from disadvantages of low efficiencies and light induced degradation. A one-step laser processing is investigated for introducing light-trapping structure and crystallization on a-Si:H thin films, which can potentially simultaneously alleviate the two weaknesses of a-Si:H. The nanoscale conical and pillar-shaped spikes formed on the surface of a-Si:H films by irradiation of both femtosecond (fs) infrared and nanosecond (ns) excimer lasers enhanced light absorption, while the formation of a mixture of hydrogenated nanocrystalline silicon (nc-Si:H) and a-Si:H after crystallization suggests that the overall material stability can potentially improve. It is shown that growth is a more dominant spike formation mechanism in excimer laser processing, rather than ablation which is dominant during fs laser texturing. Experimental and analytical approaches are also developed revealing the effect of hydrogen on texturing behavior and crystallization during excimer laser irradiation, and a step-by-step crystallization process is proposed to prevent the hydrogen from diffusing out in order to reduce the defect density. In addition, a comparison of absorptance spectra for various surface morphologies and crystallinity is developed and the absorptance across the solar spectrum shows that the combination of surface texturing and crystallization induced by laser processing is very promising for a-Si:H thin film solar cell applications. CdTe thin-film solar cells are the basis of a significant technology with major commercial impact on terrestrial photovoltaic production, since CdTe leads to substantial cost reduction. Laser scribing is a key process used to increase thin-film solar panel efficiency through the formation of serial interconnections to reduce photocurrent and resistance losses. Currently, scribing is performed using glass-side laser processes which have led to increased scribe quality. Defects formed during scribing such as micro cracks, film delamination, thermal effect and tapered sidewall geometries, however, still keep solar panels from reaching their theoretical efficiencies. In this study, a ns Nd:YAG laser operating at the fundamental (1064nm) or frequency-doubled (532nm) wavelengths is employed for pattern 1 (P1) and 2 (P2) scribing on CdTe thin-film solar cells. The experimental investigation shows that film removal mechanisms for different materials are due to laser-induced ablation, thermal stress and micro-explosion processes. The formation mechanisms and mitigation techniques of the defects during micro-explosion process are studied. A fully-coupled thermal and mechanical finite element model is developed to analyze the laser-induced spatio-temporal temperature and thermal stress distribution responsible for SnO2:F film removal, and a plasma expansion model is also investigated to simulate the film removal of CdTe/Cds multilayer due to the micro-explosion process. The characterization of removal qualities will enable the process optimization and design required to enhance solar module efficiency.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Mechanical Engineering
Thesis Advisors
Yao, Y. Lawrence
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
August 20, 2013