Photovoltaic devices based on Cu(In1-xGax)Se2 nanocrystal inks
Thin film copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS) solar cells have exhibited single junction power conversion efficiencies above 20% and have been commercialized. The large scale production of CIGS solar cells, however, is hampered by the relatively high cost and poor stoichiometric control of coevaporating tertiary and quaternary semiconductors in high vacuum. To reduce the overall cost of production, CIGS nanocrystals with predetermined stoichiometry and crystal phase were synthesized in solution.
Colloidal nanocrystals of CIGS provide a novel route for production of electronic devices. Colloidal nanocrystals combine the well understood device physics of inorganic crystalline semiconductors with the solution processability of amorphous organic semiconductors. This approach reduces the overall cost of CIGS manufacturing and can be used to fabricate solar cells on flexible and light-weight plastic substrates.
As deposited CIGS nanocrystal solar cells were fabricated by ambient spray-deposition. Devices with efficiencies of 3.1% under AM1.5 illumination were fabricated. Examining the external and internal quantum efficiency spectrums of the devices reveal that in nanocrystal devices only the space charge region is actively contributing to the extracted photocurrent. The device efficiency of the as-deposited nanocrystal films is presently limited by the small crystalline grains (≈ 15 nm) in the absorber layer and the relatively large interparticle spacing due to the organic capping ligands on the nanocrystal surfaces. Small grains and large interparticle spacing limits high density extraction of electrons and holes from the nanocrystal film. A Mott-Schottky estimation of the space charge region reveals that only 50 nm depth of the nanocrystalline absorber is effectively contributing to the photogenerated current. One strategy to improve charge collection involves increased space charge region for extraction by vertical stacking of diodes. A much longer absorption path for the photons exists in the space charge region with the stacked devices, increasing the probability that the incident radiation is absorbed and then extracted. This method enables an increase in the collected short circuit current. The overall device efficiency, however, suffers with the increased series resistance and shunt conductance of the device. Growth of nanocrystal grains was deemed necessary to achieve power conversion efficiencies comparable to vapor deposited CIGS films. Simple thermal treatment of the nanocrystal layers did not contribute to the growth of the crystalline grain size. At the same time, because of the loss of selenium and increased trap density in the absorber layer, there was a measurable decrease in device efficiency with thermal processing. For increased grain size, the thermal treatment of the absorber layer took place in presence of compensating amounts of selenium vapor. The process of selenization, as it is called, took place at 500°C in a graphite box and led to an increase of the grain size from 15 nm to several microns in diameter. Devices with the increased grain size yielded efficiencies up to 5.1% under AM1.5 radiation. Mott-Schottky analysis of the selenized films revealed a reduction in doping density and a comparable increase in the space-charge region depth with the increased grain size. The increased collection combined with the much higher carrier mobility in the larger grains led to achieved Jsc values greater than 20 mA/cm2. Light beam induced current microscopy (LBIC) maps of the devices with selenized absorber layers revealed significant heterogeneity in photogenerated current. Distribution of current hotspots in the film corresponded with highly selenized regions of the absorber films. In an effort to improve the overall device efficiency, improvements in the selenization process are necessary. It was determined that the selenization procedure is dependent on the selenization temperature and processing environment. Meanwhile, the reactor geometry and nanocrystal inks composition played important roles in determining selenized film morphology and the resulting device efficiency. Further work is necessary to optimize all the parameters to improve device efficiency even further.