An Evaluation of Zinc Oxide Photovoltaic Devices
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Zinc oxide (ZnO) is attractive for photovoltaic applications due to its conductivity when doped with aluminum and transparency to the visible range of sunlight, i.e. minimized optical and electrical loss. Zinc oxide can form a stable n-n isotype heterojunction with silicon, which is comparable with conventional p-n junctions. The performance of such a junction heavily relies on the Fermi energy tuning of ZnO by Al doping. As an n-type dopant to ZnO, Al greatly improves the conductivity of ZnO. Moreover, Al-doped ZnO (AZO) is relatively abundant and cheap compared to other transparent conductive oxides (TCO), so that potentially the cost of electricity generation ($/KW) can be decreased. In order to boost the poor open circuit voltages resulted from the structures such as ITO/n-Si and AZO/n-Si, a thin 40 nm AZO film was introduced in our design as a buffer layer between the emitter and base. Our goal is to discover what Al content in the buffer layer achieves the optimum performance. Aluminum doped ZnO films were grown by a co-sputtering method which was a combination of RF sputtered ZnO with a fixed power of 300 W and DC sputtered Al with varied powers of 15–40 W. The Al content in AZO increases with increasing power used in Al sputtering. In this research, two types of heterojunction solar cells, ITO/AZO/n-Si and AZO/AZO/n-Si, were fabricated, analyzed and compared. The middle layer of AZO is the buffer layer which has varied Al doping and plays a key role in improving open circuit voltage. For the structure AZO/AZO/n-Si, the top emitter AZO layer has a fixed Al doping of 6.12 wt% at which AZO demonstrates the highest conductivity. With Al doping of the buffer AZO layer ranging from 0–7 wt.%, 6.34 wt.% of Al doping yields the best performance for both types of solar cell structures. At its best performance, ITO/AZO/n-Si demonstrates an open circuit voltage (V oc ) of 0.42 V, a short circuit current density (J sc ) of 26.0 mA/cm 2 , and a conversion efficiency of 5.03%, while AZO/AZO/n-Si shows a V oc of 0.3 V, a J sc of 24.7 mA/cm 2 and a conversion efficiency of 3.99%. The device ITO/AZO/n-Si which has 6.34% Al doped ZnO buffer improves the V oc up to 0.42V from 0.2V for the cell without a ZnO buffer layer. Similarly, AZO/AZO/n-Si improves the V oc to 0.3 V from 0.26 V for the cell without a buffer layer. The research results have shown that both types of structure provide higher V oc than the structure without a buffer layer. The increase of V oc can be attributed to the fact that the buffer layer engineers the Fermi level of ZnO to heighten the isotype junction barrier. Our capacitance-voltage (C-V) measurements showed that the junction formed with ZnO and intrinsic Si has the highest barrier height compared to ZnO/nSi or ZnO/pSi junctions. This could imply that reducing the doping density of Si can possibly improve the barrier height at the ZnO/Si interface and therefore improve the open-circuit voltage. To study the carrier transport mechanisms at ZnO/nSi junctions, current-voltage-temperature (I-V-T) measurements were conducted. As a result, in the forward direction, AZO(6.34 wt%)/nSi junction shows a combination of thermionic emission and recombination at intermediate voltages and an existence of space charge limited current (SCLC) at high voltages. On the other hand, AZO(3.49 wt%)/nSi junction has a mechanism of a combination of tunneling and recombination at intermediate voltages and SCLC in the ballistic regime at high voltages.