High-rate deposition of a-SiNx:H for photovoltaic applications by the expanding thermal plasma

W.M.M. Kessels, J. Hong, F.J.H. Assche, van, J.D. Moschner, T. Lauinger, W.J. Soppe, A.W. Weeber, D.C. Schram, M.C.M. Sanden, van de

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Driven by the need for improvement of the economical competitiveness of photovoltaic energy, the feasibility of high-rate (>1 nm/s) amorphous silicon nitride (a-SiNx:H) deposited by the expanding thermal plasma (ETP) technique has been explored with respect to the application of the a-SiNx:H as functional antireflection coating on crystalline silicon solar cells. First, the deposition rate and the a-SiNx:H film properties, such as refractive index, Si, N, and H atomic density, and hydrogen bonding configurations, have been mapped for various operating conditions. From ellipsometry, elastic recoil detection, and infrared spectroscopy, it has been shown that deposition rates up to 20 nm/s can be reached with a fair film homogeneity and that the refractive index and the N/Si ratio can fully be tuned by the plasma composition while the hydrogen content can be controlled by the substrate temperature. Good antireflection coating performance of the a-SiNx:H has therefore been observed for monocrystalline silicon solar cells. These cells with ETP a-SiNx:H yielded only slightly lower conversion efficiencies than high-quality reference cells due to a much lower degree of surface passivation. This lack of surface passivation has also been shown in a separate study on the surface recombination velocity. Furthermore, it has been tested whether the a-SiNx:H films lead to silicon bulk passivation, which is essential for solar cells based on cheaper, defective silicon stock material such as multicrystalline silicon. It has been proven that bulk passivation of the cells is indeed induced by the high-rate ETP deposited a-SiNx:H after a high-temperature step in which the metal contacts of the cells are processed. These results make the ETP technique an interesting candidate for high-throughput processing of competitive silicon solar cells.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1704-1715
JournalJournal of Vacuum Science and Technology A
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2002


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