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Letter to the Editor

A simple method to simulate the inuence of defects on the


short circuit current in amorphous silicon solar cells
P.

Stulk, J. Singh
*
Faculty of Science, Northern Territory University, Darwin NT 0909, Australia
Received 23 June 1997; received in revised form 9 February 1998
Abstract
An optical method for calculating the maximal photo-generated current in a pin amorphous silicon (a-Si:H) solar
cell is presented. Using an analytical expression for the rate of recombination, the short circuit current (J
sc
) is derived as
a function of the defect density. Our method enables us to calculate the optimal thickness (the thickness at maximum
J
sc
) of i-layer at a given defect density and hence helps designing a-Si:H solar cells for their optimal photovoltaic per-
formance. 1998 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.
1. Introduction
Although, an eciency of more than 13% [1,2]
has been achieved in a-Si:H solar cells the problem
of photo-induced degradation is still not solved.
One way of explaining the photo-induced degrada-
tion in a-Si:H is that the number of dangling bonds
(defects) increases with light soaking. In this paper
we study the eects of an increase in defects (de-
gradation) in the intrinsic (i) layer on the short cir-
cuit current (J
sc
) of a-Si:H solar cells.
We have applied an optical method rst to cal-
culate the maximal photocurrent (optically limited
current without any recombination) and then we
have included the eect of recombination due to
the presence of dangling bonds. The dangling
bonds in amorphous semiconductors can be in
three states (D

, D

and D
0
). However, in the in-
trinsic layer of a-Si:H most of these bonds are in
D
0
state, and therefore contribution of D

and
D

states to recombination may be neglected.


The recombination function thus obtained, as de-
rived by Hubin and Shah [3] for the i-layer, is used
here. In our calculation we have also assumed that
the recombination of charge carriers occurs mainly
in the interior of the i-layer [4]. Using these as-
sumptions we have calculated J
sc
as a function of
the defect density and thickness of the i-layer. This
approach therefore can be used to optimise the de-
sign of a-Si:H solar cells for their photovoltaic per-
formance.
2. General theory
The optical behaviour of a multilayer structure
is related to the complex refractive indexes of its
individual layers, N
)
(k) = n
)
(k) ik
)
(k), where
n
)
(k) and k
)
(k) are indexes of refraction and extinc-
tion coecient, respectively, of the )th layer, as
functions of the wavelength k.
Journal of Non-Crystalline Solids 226 (1998) 299303
*
Corresponding author. Tel.: +61-8 8946 6811; fax: +61-8
8941 0460; e-mail: j-singh@bligh.ntu.edu.au.
0022-3093/98/$19.00 1998 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.
PII: S 0 0 2 2 - 3 0 9 3 ( 9 8 ) 0 0 4 4 6 - 3
For calculating the reectance, transmittance
and absorbance in a multilayer structure, it is nec-
essary to solve the following optical matrix equa-
tion [57]:
B
C

=

m
)=1
cos d
)
i sin d
)
aY
)
i Y
)
sin d
)
cos d
)

4 5
1
Y
s

Y (1)
where d
)
= 2pN
)
d
)
cos h
)
ak, N
)
(k) is the complex
refractive index, d
)
is the thickness, h
)
is an angle
of incidence and Y
)
is the optical admittance of
the )th layer. m is the number of lms/layers in
the multilayer structure and Y
s
is the optical admit-
tance of the substrate (rear metal contact). Solving
Eq. (1), for B and C, we can calculate the absor-
bance, A
)
(k), in the )th layer of a multilayer struc-
ture as has already been described [6,7].
For designing a pin type single junction cell,
the i-layer is considered to be the only active layer,
so the optically limited current, J
LO
of a cell, can
be written as
J
LO
= e

A
i-layer
(k) F (k)
k
hc
dkY (2)
where e is the electronic charge and F (k) the inci-
dent ux of solar radiation used at AM1.5 with
light intensity 100 mW/cm
2
. Using Eq. (2), the
short circuit current J
sc
is then obtained as
J
sc
= vJ
LO
Y (3)
where v is the collection eciency.
Many charge carriers may recombine before
reaching the electrodes due to the presence of dan-
gling bonds, which are an intrinsic part of a-Si:H.
Incorporating the eect of recombination, the col-
lection eciency, v, has thus been obtained as [3]
v =
1
L
!
n
!
p
!
n
exp(LaL
c
) !
p
exp(LaL
c
)
exp
L
L
c

exp
L
L
c
!
Y (4)
where L is the thickness of i-layer and
L
c
= 2
!
n
!
p
!
n
!
p
Y (5)
!
n
= l
0
n
s
0
n
[E
0
[, !
p
= l
0
p
s
0
p
[E
0
[ are the drift lengths of
free electrons and holes, respectively. l
0
n
and l
0
p
are
band mobilities for free carriers, s
0
n
and s
0
p
are the
corresponding capture times, and E
0
= J
b
aL,
where J
b
is built-in voltage of a cell. The product
of l and s is inversely proportional to the defect
density, N
D
, as [8]
ls
1
N
D
X (6)
Using Eqs. (3) and (4) we obtain J
sc
as a func-
tion of the thickness of the i-layer. The optimal
thickness can then be determined corresponding
to the maximum J
sc
, which thus depends on the
density of defects. As both the absorbance and re-
combination increase with the thickness of the i-
layer, v reduces with the increase of the thickness
of the i-layer and so does J
sc
.
3. Results
In our design we have used ITO as the TCO of
thickness 50 nm [9], p and n layers each of thick-
ness 10 nm [6,9] and silver as the rear metal con-
tact [9,10]. These parameters are important for
calculating the absorbance in the i-layer used in
Eq. (2). The J
sc
is then calculated at various thick-
nesses of the i-layer at a constant defect density.
In Fig. 1 we show the integrated absorbance,
A
i-layer
, collection eciency, v and J
sc
, as a func-
tion of thickness of the i-layer at a constant defect
density. First J
sc
increases with the i-layer thick-
ness, d, and reaches a maximum at d = 446 nm.
In this region recombination is small and the cur-
rent is mainly governed by the absorbance. At
larger thicknesses, although the absorbance is
high, as can be seen from Fig. 1, recombination
also becomes larger, resulting in a smaller collec-
tion eciency. Thus the results of Fig. 1 can be
used to determine the optimal thickness of the i-
layer at which J
sc
becomes maximum. It may be
noted here that the results thus obtained are for
a-Si:H thin lms whose measured properties used
in the calculation are given in Table 1. Although
these properties can vary from lm to lm, the
method of calculating J
sc
is general and can be ap-
plied to any pin type solar cells.
Using a dierent approach J
sc
, as a function of
the thickness of i-layer, has also been calculated by
Hack and Shur [4]. In their calculation they have
300 P.

Stulk, J. Singh / Journal of Non-Crystalline Solids 226 (1998) 299303


not found any oscillation in J
sc
with respect to the
various thicknesses of i-layer, because they consid-
ered only the reection at the rear interface, so
multiple reections were neglected. However in
our calculation, as the interference of multiple re-
ections at the internal interfaces of a cell is in-
cluded, oscillations are found in the absorbance
and hence in J
sc
as well.
We have calculated the optimal thickness of the
i-layer as a function of density of defects and
shown it in Fig. 2. As can be seen from Fig. 2,
we can nd two optimal i-layer thicknesses at some
defect densities, which produce almost the same
J
sc
. This occurrence is expected to be due to the in-
terference eects at the interfaces, which causes J
sc
to oscillate with the i-layer thickness as shown in
Fig. 1.
It is also interesting to study the dependance of
J
sc
on the material quality. In our model the mate-
rial quality is determined by the defect density, and
an increase in the defect density is used to simulate
photo-degradation of solar cells. In Fig. 3 we have
plotted J
sc
as a function of the defect density for
three thicknesses of the i-layer. We see from
Fig. 3 that the cell of d = 680 nm has the largest
J
sc
initially at a defect density of 10
15
cm
3
in com-
parison with the other two cells of smaller i-layer
thicknesses. However as the defect density increas-
es, to ~10
17
cm
3
, J
sc
of the cell with d = 680 nm
decreases to a much smaller value in comparison
with that of cells with thinner i-layer. This means
that a solar cell with a thicker i-layer is aected
more by the photo-degradation than that with a
thinner i-layer, which agrees with the experimental
results obtained by Chaudhuri et al. [11]. We can
also see (Fig. 3) that the reduction in J
sc
due to
photo-degradation (increase in defect density) is
lower in a cell with a thinner i-layer than that with
a thicker i-layer, which also agrees with other ex-
perimental results [1215].
4. Conclusion
We have developed a simple method of calculat-
ing J
sc
in a-Si:H solar cells, which can be maxi-
mised with respect to the thickness of the i-layer
and defect density. With this method the decrease
Table 1
Values of parameters used in the calculations
Parameter Value Ref.
lsN
D
(e D
0
) 2X5 10
8
(cmV)
1
[8]
lsN
D
(h D
0
) 4 10
7
(cmV)
1
[8]
Built-in voltage J
b
0.25 V [8]
Light intensity used 100 mW/cm
2
[16]
Solar spectrum F (k) AM1.5 [17]
Refractive index of a-Si:H (p,i,n
layers)
n(k)Y k(k) [18]
Refractive index of Ag contact
layer
n(k)Y k(k) [19]
Fig. 1. J
sc
absorbance and collection eciency are plotted as a function of the thickness of i-layer for the defect density
N
D
= 5 10
15
cm
3
. The symbols on curves are used only to identify dierent functions.
P.

Stulk, J. Singh / Journal of Non-Crystalline Solids 226 (1998) 299303 301


in J
sc
due to increase in the defect density caused
by the photo-degradation is calculated.
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Fig. 3. J
sc
plotted as a function of the defect density, N
D
, for three selected thicknesses of the i-layer. The symbols on lines are used only
to identify dierent thicknesses.
Fig. 2. The optimal thickness of the i-layer calculated at several defect densities N
D
, indicated by triangles, which are connected by a
tted broken line.
302 P.

Stulk, J. Singh / Journal of Non-Crystalline Solids 226 (1998) 299303


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P.

Stulk, J. Singh / Journal of Non-Crystalline Solids 226 (1998) 299303 303