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MLE 4208

Photovoltaic Materials
Dr. Tan Swee Ching
Lecture Notes - Week 9
Silicon Solar Cells Fabrication

MLE4208 9, p.2


Etch Solution:
Potassium Hydroxide (KOH)
Isopropyl Alcohol (IPA)
Water (H2O)

Experimental setup used in this study to texture mono-Si-

wafers. Using a hotplate, the alkaline solution is heated in a
glass beaker. As-cut Si-wafers are placed in the solution.
MLE4208 9, p.3


The formation of the

pyramids is due to the
anisotropy of the etch

Pyramid texture on mono-Si-wafer after the as-cut Si-wafer was etched for 25
min in a standard KOH-IPA solution at 80oC.
MLE4208 9, p.4

Mechanism of the Formation of the Pyramids

Chemical bonds of Si (111) and Si (100)
MLE4208 9, p.5

Mechanism of the Formation of the Pyramids

Crystallographic planes of Si (111) and Si (100)

In alkaline medium, the Si (100) crystalline orientation has the highest etching rate
as compared to other planes which leads to the formation of pyramids
MLE4208 9, p.6

Determination of the heights of the pyramids

MLE4208 9, p.7

Texturing Reduces Total Reflection

Reflection measurements of an as-cut silicon wafer and an

optimal KOH-IPA textured silicon wafer.
MLE4208 9, p.8

Emitter Formation – Thermal Diffusion

• Semiconductor wafer comes doped (typically p-type for
silicon solar cells)
• Need to form a highly n-type doped emitter layer for
solar cell
• Can grow with dopant incorporated – methods such as
MBE, MOCVD this is trivial
• To keep costs down, however, better to diffuse the n
type dopant into the substrate
• For silicon, this means diffusing Phosphorus
• Since diffusing the dopant in, the doping density will
vary with depth and junction is not sharp
MLE4208 9, p.9

Doping Methods

1. Ion implantation
2. Thermal Diffusion – Employed by Solar Cells
3. Spin on Dopants
MLE4208 9, p.10

Emitter Formation-Ion Implantation

• Accelerate ions and fire them

at semiconductor
• Best for forming shallow
• Good control of dose
• Creates damage to the crystal
• Can also cause amorphization
MLE4208 9, p.11

Emitter Formation-Spin on Dopants

Baking (drying – resulting in the formation of oxide film) Annealing at

high temperature (drive diffusion)
MLE4208 9, p.12

Emitter Formation – Thermal Diffusion

Phosphorus Diffusion, Phosphoryl chloride (POCl3), for N-type
Boron Diffusion, Boron tribromide (BBr3) for P-type

A Diffusion Furnace

Gaseous POCl3 + O2 to form phosphorous oxide (P2O5)

Emitter Formation – Thermal Diffusion

• After removing damage from slicing, is to create

junction by n-type diffusion

• Wafer is heated to 800-1000oC in a phosphorus atmosphere

giving thin layer of n type

• The n type layer at the edges means the top and

bottom are connected. Need to
remove to
• In addition a phosphosilicate glass (PSG) is formed all these
on the surfaces of the wafer
MLE4208 9, p.14

PSG Removal
• Phosphosilicate glass (PSG) is formed on the surface of silicon
wafer after the thermal diffusion process
• PSG is an insulator
• It has to be removed by
1. Dipping a HF solution.
2. DI rinse
3. Drying (slow pull and air knife)
MLE4208 9, p.15

Sides’ Emitter Removal by Wet Etch

• The solar cell is transported on the surface of an etching bath
in such a way that only the sides of the wafer is wetted.
• Using a solution of H2O, HF, HNO3, and H2SO4, the emitter is
completely removed from the sides of the wafer
Sides’ Emitter Removal by Plasma Etch

• Stack together so only edges are exposed

• Etch the edges away using a highly reactive plasma to
remove the junction
Alternative method – laser processing
Why laser processing?

Industry is trying to achieve:

1. Driving the thickness of the cell to < 180µm
2. Increasing yield levels from approximately 90% to more than

These create a series of problems:

1. Handling such thin and delicate wafers become challenging
2. The use of equipment that is non-contact by nature is strongly

Laser-based equipment
Laser Edge Isolation

Front or rear edge isolation is better?

MLE4208 9, p.19

Anti-Reflection Coating

Si3N4 is used as antireflection layer in solar cells


Deposited by Plasma Enhanced Chemical

Vapor Deposition (PECVD)

Precursor: Silane, Ammonia and Nitrogen

3 SiH4 + 4 NH3 → Si3N4 + 24 H2

n = 1.85 – 3.3
MLE4208 9, p.20
Distinguishing Texturing, Anti-Reflection Coating
and Texturing + Anti-Reflection Coating
Texturing and Anti-Reflection Coating


MLE4208 9, p.21

Solar Cell Production – Rear Contact

• Screen Print the rear contact

• Process the same as screen printing for a tee shirt
MLE4208 9, p.22

Solar Cell Production – Rear Contact

• First heated gently to remove organic binders in the paste

• Second firing at much higher temperature to fire into the
MLE4208 9, p.23

Solar Cell Production – Front Contact

• Finish up with screen printing of front contact grid

• Heated to fire the metal into the Silicon
MLE4208 9, p.4

Solar Cell Production – Front Contact

(Alternative method)
Laser-Grooved Buried Contact
• Laser will drill a trench in the front side of
the solar cell
• Trench is 35um deep and 20um deep
(varies with companies)
• Trench will be filled up with front metal
contact material, i.e silver

• A large metal height to width aspect ratio
• Reduction of metal grid and contact
• Shading loos is reduced from 15%
(conventional method) to 3% (this
MLE4208 9, p.25

Solar Cell Production

• Get something that looks like this

• What about AR coatings?
MLE4208 9, p.26

Process Flow of Si Solar Cell Fabrication

MLE4208 9, p.27

Differentiating sc-Si and mc-Si Solar Cells

Black Silicon

What is black silicon?

Black silicon is an accidental discovery after surface
modification of silicon by Reaction Ion Etching (RIE).

What makes it BLACK?

Black silicon is made of needle-shaped
surface structures where needles are
made of single-crystal silicon and have a
height above 10 µm and diameter less
than 1 µm.

Other methods for forming a similar structure

include electrochemical etching, stain etching,
metal-assisted chemical etching, and laser
MLE4208 9, p.29

Black Silicon Solar Cells

Optical properties:
1) very low reflectivity
2) Correspondingly high absorption of
visible and infrared wavelengths
MLE4208 9, p.30

Testing of Fabricated Solar Cell

• Not all solar cells are created equal, especially when multi-
• Testing of finished solar cell done by I-V, end up with bins of
similar performance solar cells or grades
• Also want to test during the process
– Don’t want to continue processing if there is no chance of a good
solar cell
– Identify any problems in the process flow easily and quickly
• Movement towards techniques such as
photoluminescence to check quality of feedstock
MLE4208 9, p.31

From Solar Cell to Array

• Cell (c-Si 10x10cm2, -15%, V=0.5V, I=3A, P=1.5W)

• Solar Panel (36 c-Si cells, V=18V, I=3A, P-54W)
• Solar Array
MLE4208 9, p.32

What Makes Up a Solar Panel?

MLE4208 9, p.33

Module vs Cell Efficiency

Cells in Series in a Module are matched by cell with

the lowest current. Voltages add.


MLE4208 9, p.34

Effect of Shading


MLE4208 9, p.35

Module vs Cell Efficiency

I Cells in Parallel in a Module
are matched in voltage.

Currents add.


MLE4208 9, p.36