Multimode Characterization Approach for Understanding Cell-Level PV Performance and Degradation

Research output: NRELTechnical Report


Cell-level degradation processes impact the economic viability and large-scale deployment prospects for both established and emerging photovoltaic (PV) technologies. This project addresses the need to develop experimental and device-modeling approaches for studying cell-level degradation processes in photovoltaic (PV) devices using a variety of characterization techniques that provide access to complementary material and device properties. Our results demonstrate that by coupling characterization results with device modeling it is possible to develop comprehensive understanding of processes leading to performance limitations and degradation. This project developed a suite of novel measurement techniques including pulsed-light-bias operando X-ray and photoelectron spectroscopy (popXPS), light-biased scanning microwave impedance microscopy (sMIM), and near-field transport imaging (TI). In addition, operando characterization methodologies and in situ stressing capabilities have been developed and applied for techniques including electron-beam-induced current (EBIC), cathodoluminescence (CL), and Kelvin probe force microscopy (KPFM). Device-physics models were developed and applied to simulate correlative, multi-mode measurements to extract material and device parameters that control performance degradation. These characterization and modeling techniques were applied in a multi-mode approach to probe cell-level degradation mechanisms in Cd(Se,Te) and hybrid perovskite PV devices. Together these efforts contribute to foundational PV degradation science by establishing a framework for understanding PV performance degradation at the cell level and benefit the U.S. PV industry by providing resources in the form of novel experimental capabilities, knowledge gained, and available expertise that can accelerate research and development of improved PV device materials and architectures. The project provided a comprehensive understanding of degradation in baseline Cd(Se,Te) solar cells provided by our collaborators at Colorado State University (CSU). EBIC and CL-based measurements and revealed unusual collection and recombination profiles in these devices, which underwent significant changes with during stressing. KPFM and operando XPS measurements showed that device stressing permanently alters energy-band alignments at the (Mg,Zn)O/Cd(Se,Te) interface, which in turn account for an observed loss in fill factor. Studies on hybrid perovskite devices were hampered to a significant extent by delays related to the pandemic. Nevertheless, a set of hybrid perovskite devices (supplied through an NREL-industry partnership) were stress tested and characterized with techniques including EBIC, sMIM, popXPS/popUPS and optically excited TI. Available results from these measurements informed the device modeling effort and suggest that defects and related band offsets at the C60/LiF/hybrid perovskite interface are the primary source of degradation in these devices.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages52
StatePublished - 2022

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/TP-5K00-84194


  • characterization
  • degradation
  • photovoltaics


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