As more efficient and cost-effective photovoltaic (PV) architectures are developed, solar becomes an ever more competitive and viable replacement for fossil fuels. Full grid electrification necessitates the development of efficient, reliable, cost-effective technologies - and there is room for many different kinds of PV in this expanding market. The practical challenges and constraints of terawatt PV production have brought scalability and durability into sharp scientific focus. From a materials perspective, there are commonalities in the materials questions and challenges across different PV technologies. Whereas most PV technology is referred to by the absorber layer - e.g. silicon, or perovskite solar cells, other layers in the device are equally important to performance and durability. These layers are often composed of metal oxides, and are common across device technologies - for example, interfacial layers (such as charge transport layers, CTLs), and transparent conducting oxides (TCOs) used as electrodes.This work addresses materials oxide characterization and its relationship to materials and device performance and degradation across PV technologies.
Among the most promising PVs to date are two technologies with different levels of thin film incorporation: silicon heterojunction (SHJ) and perovskite PV. SHJ cells are part of the industrial Si PV portfolio, and perovskite cells are starting to be commercially produced after a decade of intensive research. However, there are well-known stability and cost limitations associated with each technology. Understanding the thin film materials science in these devices, and using that understanding to enhance device performance and stability is key to more reliable and cost effective electricity production.
Under practical aging conditions, careful materials-level characterization is required to understand the degradation mechanisms of these materials and the complex effects of aging on the multilayer system. This work details the effects of practical degradation challenges such as damp heat (DH) exposure and encapsulation degradation on the stability of inorganic metal oxides in both the SHJ and perovskite thin film photovoltaic architectures. For perovskite devices, MAPbI3 films were deposited by spin coating onto a range of substrates and CTLs; substrates of glass and indium tin oxide (ITO) were paired with metal oxides (MOs) including MoOX, NiOX, and ZnO. SE and SEM were used to characterize the surface and bulk properties of the perovskite films. Results demonstrate that the underlying layers affect the rate of absorber degradation when exposed to heat and moisture.
Unencapsulated SHJ cells (a subset of which were exposed to low concentrations of acetic acid under an applied voltage) were aged under DH 85°C/85% relative humidity conditions. The contact-ITO interface was examined via optical profilometry (OP), spectroscopic ellipsometry (SE), and scanning electron microscopy (SEM). SHJ cells have interfaces unique to their architecture, namely the c-Si/a-Si:H and a-Si:H/ITO interfaces at the top of the device. Examining the degradation of unencapsulated SHJ cells and comparing those results to historical degradation profiles of encapsulated SHJ cells in addition to the simulated effects of acetic acid exposure will help to decouple the effects of encapsulation on ITO stability in this architecture. It is well known that ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA) encapsulation degrades and produces acetic acid upon exposure to heat and humidity. When under an applied voltage, even small concentrations of acetic acid can quickly corrode the contact-ITO interface, leading to decreases in efficiency and increases in series resistance of the cell. Here, XPS was used to monitor the changes in the front contact of the SHJ cells during DH and acetic acid exposure. Changes to the materials will be correlated to changes in device performance under the same aging conditions.
photovoltaics, perovskite, thin films, lifetime and degradation
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Rasmussen, Mirra M.; Davis, Kristopher O.; Bruckman, Laura S.; and Martin, Ina T., "Understanding the Role Thin Film Interfaces Play in Solar Cell Performance and Stability" (2023). Student Scholarship. 1. https://commons.case.edu/studentworks/1