Emitter/Absorber Interface of CdTe Solar Cells: Article No. 233104

Ana Kanevce, Tao Song, James Sites

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154 Scopus Citations


The performance of CdTe solar cells can be very sensitive to their emitter/absorber interfaces, especially for high-efficiency cells with improved bulk properties. When interface defect states are located at efficient recombination energies, performance losses from acceptor-type interface defects can be significant. Numerical simulations show that the emitter/absorber band alignment, the emitter doping and thickness, and the defect properties of the interface (i.e. defect density, defect type, and defect energy) can all play significant roles in the interface recombination. In particular, a type I heterojunction with small conduction-band offset (0.1 eV </= ..delta..EC </= 0.3 eV) can help maintain good cell efficiency in spite of high interface defect density, much like with Cu(In,Ga)Se2 (CIGS) cells. The basic principle is that positive ..delta..EC, often referred to as a 'spike', creates an absorber inversion and hence a large hole barrier adjacent to the interface. As a result, the electron-hole recombination is suppressed due to an insufficient hole supply at the interface. A large spike (..delta..EC >/= 0.4 eV), however, can impede electron transport and lead to a reduction of photocurrent and fill-factor. In contrast to the spike, a 'cliff' (.delta..EC < 0 eV) is likely to allow many holes in the vicinity of the interface, which will assist interface recombination and result in a reduced open-circuit voltage. In addition, a thin and highly-doped emitter can invert the absorber, form a large hole barrier, and decrease device performance losses due to high interface defect density. CdS is the most common emitter material used in CdTe solar cells, but the CdS/CdTe interface is in the cliff category and is not favorable from the band-offset perspective. Other n-type emitter choices, such as (Mg,Zn)O, Cd(S,O), or (Cd,Mg)Te, can be tuned by varying the elemental ratio for an optimal positive value of ..delta..EC. These materials are predicted to yield higher voltages and would therefore be better candidates for the CdTe-cell emitter.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Applied Physics
Issue number23
StatePublished - 2016

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5K00-66287


  • CdTe
  • interface recombination
  • numerical modeling


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