Application of ab-initio Methods to Grain Boundaries and Point Defects for Poly-CdTe Solar Cells
Buurma, Christopher F.
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CdTe is a material well-suited to solar cell applications due to its 1.5 eV direct bandgap and high optical absorption. To meet energy demands, CdTe solar cells must be produced at a low-cost and with high throughput which often demands the use of non-ideal polycrystalline CdTe. As a result of careful process control, current thin-film poly-CdTe cells have been shown to be somewhat defect tolerant with proven industry success. Yet despite this success poly-CdTe cells are still far from their predicted Shockley-Queisser theoretical limits. The next generation cells must demonstrate higher open-circuit voltages, fill factors, and longer minority carrier lifetimes. Playing a major role in doping, defect migration, carrier recombination, and current transport are 2D extended defects both within grains and between grains as grain boundaries (GBs). A further understanding of these defects is needed which exhibit either high symmetry such as the CSL structures or those mixed or random GBs with low symmetry. Their corresponding formation and electronic behavior will be needed to develop methods to mitigate their effects and instead promote higher doping with less minority carrier recombination. Predictions and guidance on electronic and thermodynamic properties can be obtained from model atomic structures within the framework of ab-initio density-functional theory. Bulk point defect formation energies were determined for comparison to calculations of point defects along GB structures. Model atomic structures of GBs can also be created rapidly and over a wide parameter space using the Grain Boundary Genie code developed for this project. Commonly observed low-angle and special coincident grain boundaries structures were created and a subset relaxed to determine their local strain environment and interfacial energy with for comparison to STEM observations. Additionally, a series of random angle or ‘mixed’ grain boundaries were created and investigated corresponding to possible interfaces between grains that cannot be observed in STEM.