Local nm-Scale Imaging of Electrical Contact for Series Resistance Degradation of Silicon Solar Cells

Research output: NRELPresentation


We report on an electrical conduction mechanism for series resistance (Rs) degradation observed in a utility scale solar farm by nm-scale imaging of the local resistance at the Ag/Si interface of c-Si cell front metallization. Our previous work showed that the I-V measurement of individual cells demonstrated exclusively the cell Rs degradation, and the "beads pattern" of electroluminescence indicated the degradation at the Ag grid of front metallization. Scanning spreading resistance microscopy (SSRM) imaging, which is based on the contact mode of atomic force microscopy and taken on the cross-sections of Ag/Si contact, revealed the electrical conduction pathway of Ag particles in point or small area contact with Si cell emitter. The SSRM results illustrated that the number of electrical contacts in the degraded cell decreased largely compared with the unaffected cell, demonstrating the direct cause of the Rs degradation. This reduction in electrical contact in the degraded cell could be caused by a structural change in the Ag grid during long-term field service: The Ag particles in contact with Si aggregate into the Ag bulk and a highly resistive ceramic oxide is formed in a "belt" shape at the Ag/Si interface. This resistive belt with a thickness of ~1 m blocks the current conduction from cell emitter to the Ag grid. The degraded cell shows both a morphological and chemical difference in the screen-printed finger contact compared to the unaffected cell, which likely caused the different degradation susceptibility during the long-term field service. Our results demonstrate an example of the multi-scale characterization approach for understanding photovoltaic degradation mechanisms.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages11
StatePublished - 2022

Publication series

NamePresented at the 49th IEEE Photovoltaic Specialists Conference (PVSC 49), 5-10 June 2022, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/PR-5K00-83145


  • microscopy
  • photovoltaic
  • PV
  • resistance
  • Rs
  • scanning
  • series resistance degradation
  • spreading
  • SSRM


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