Nafion Passivation of c-Si Surface and Edge for Electron Paramagnetic Resonance

Kejun Chen, Sumit Agarwal, Abigail Meyer, Harvey Guthrey, William Nemeth, San Theingi, Matthew Page, David Young, Paul Stradins

Research output: NRELPresentation


Effective surface passivation of crystalline silicon (c-Si) surface by reducing the carrier recombination rate has led to modern c-Si solar cells with efficiencies > 25% in both laboratory and industrial settings. Typical mainstream surface passivation techniques include high-temperature silicon oxide (SiOx), amorphous silicon (a-Si:H), hydrogen-rich silicon nitride (SiNx), and aluminum oxide (Al2O3) [1]. They have demonstrated excellent surface recombination velocity of < 1 cm/s owing to both chemical passivation (via the hydrogen saturation of Si dangling bonds at the c-Si surface), and field-effect passivation (via the band bending from the fixed charge of the dielectric layers). Recently, several groups have studied solution-based organic materials for c-Si passivation, including bis(trifluoromethane)sulfonimide (TFSI), polystyrenesulfonate, and Nafion [2, 3] via spin or dip coating. All films were processed at ambient room temperature, and a high lifetime of 12 ms, as well as a low saturation current density (J0) of 16 fA/cm2, have been demonstrated using Nafion passivation [2]. However, despite the air instability, Nafion has several advantages when introduced to PV applications: (a) Wafer quality can be measured at high throughput after several process stages. (b) It is compatible with PL mapping, compared to HF liquid passivation which cannot be performed in room ambient. (c) Nafion process is fast and poses fewer constraints on process complexity, and cleanness, compared to Al2O3 and a-Si:H passivation. (d) Nafion is the ideal room temperature passivation, which can be applied onto a small fragment of a degraded module to investigate microscopic mechanisms when studying degradation mechanisms. Edge passivation is needed for advanced characterization tests such as Electron Paramagnetic Resonance (EPR), Electrically Detected Magnetic Resonance (EDMR), Deep Level Transient Spectroscopy (DLTS), local cell current-voltage (J-V), and Suns-Voc. In such cases, the laser-damaged minicell edges will obscure the true degradation mechanisms, and Nafion can effectively passivate them without causing further degradation through elevated-temperature processes. In this contribution, we show the passivation results of Nafion on bare nCz and compare it with a Al2O3 witness. We highlight the importance of edge pre-treatment before Nafion to achieve good passivation. We show that Nafion can reach decent passivation without undergoing high-temperature processes. We also explore the temperature dependency of Nafion through photoluminescence (PL) study and demonstrate the application of Nafion under cryogenic temperature (~6 K) through EPR. Our results reveal that Nafion can reduce surface and edge Si dangling bonds at low temperatures. Thus, it can be used as an effective room temperature passivation technique for advanced characterization methods.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages16
StatePublished - 2022

Publication series

NamePresented at the 8th World Conference on Photovoltaic Energy Conversion, 26-30 September 2022, Milan, Italy

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/PR-5900-82881


  • c-Si
  • electron paramagnetic resonance
  • EPR
  • Nafion
  • photovoltaics
  • PV
  • room temperature passivation
  • silicon solar cell
  • surface passivation


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