Progress in the surface passivation of silicon solar cells

J. Schmidt, A. Merkle, R. Bock, P.P. Altermatt, A. Cuevas, N.P. (Nicolaas) den Harder, B. Hoex, M.C.M. Sanden, van de, W.M.M. Kessels, R. Brendel

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In order to increase the efficiency of silicon-wafer-based solar cells in production well above 20%, it is indispensable to improve the currently applied level of surface passivation at the front as well as at the rear of the cells. This paper focuses on two main challenges: (i) the low-temperature passivation of lowly doped p-type silicon surfaces at the cell rear and (ii) the passivation of highly boron-doped p+ emitter surfaces as used at the front of solar cells on high-lifetime n-type silicon wafers. In the past, low surface recombination velocities (<20 cm/s) have been achieved on low-resistivity (~1 Ocm) p-type silicon using plasma-enhanced chemical-vapour-deposited (PECVD) silicon nitride (SiNx) as well as amorphous silicon (a-Si). However, the high density of fixed positive charges within the PECVD-SiNx layer induces an inversion layer at the rear of p-type Si cells, producing a detrimental parasitic shunting, which reduces the short-circuit current density by up to 3 mA/cm2. The passivation quality of a-Si on the other hand is very temperature sensitive. More recently it has been shown that atomic-layer-deposited (ALD) aluminium oxide (Al2O3) provides an outstanding level of surface passivation, which can be attributed to its extremely high negative fixed charge density in combination with the very gentle deposition technique ALD, leading to low interface state densities. The application of these ALD-Al2O3 layers to the rear of p-type solar cells shows that this new passivation scheme is indeed suitable for high efficiencies and that due to the large negative fixed charge density no parasitic shunting occurs. We also demonstrate that ALD-Al2O3 seems to be the ideal passivation layer for borondoped p+ emitter surfaces. In a direct comparison with other passivation schemes, it is found that Al2O3 even outperforms optimized thermally grown SiO2 and opens the possibility of achieving very large open-circuit voltages up to Voc = 740 mV.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings 23rd European Photovoltaic Solar Energy Conference, Valencia, Spain
Publication statusPublished - 2008
Eventconference; 23rd EU PVSEC -
Duration: 1 Jan 2008 → …


Conferenceconference; 23rd EU PVSEC
Period1/01/08 → …
Other23rd EU PVSEC


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