Recombination Processes and Lifetime Measurements in Silicon Photovoltaics

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14 Scopus Citations


Recombination lifetime is one of the critical parameters in the search for cost-competitive photovoltaic technologies. Each technology has specific materials issues with respect to the role of recombination lifetime in the potential success of that technology. The dominant commercial technology for low-cost deployment of photovoltaics is currently based on various growth methods of bulk silicon. For low-cost terrestrial applications, the objective is to compromise efficiency while maximizing the efficiency-to-cost ratio. A frequent and cost-efficient tactic is to develop low-cost silicon purification and gettering processes, assessing the effectiveness of the latter by lifetime measurements. The recombination mechanism that affects low-cost silicon photovoltaics is the impurity-related Shockley-Read-Hall (SRH) process, and SRH-impurity removal is of primary concern. Here, I will present some results from a photovoltaic device model that links a theoretical efficiency to a given range of recombination lifetimes. Specialized measurement techniques are needed to get meaningful information about recombination lifetimes for these low-cost materials. Described here is a contactless photoconductive decay measurement system that has proven to be successful for most of these materials. Experimental results on a range of low-cost silicon alternatives will be presented.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)243-256
Number of pages14
JournalSolar Energy Materials and Solar Cells
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2003

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-520-32108


  • Lifetime
  • Photovoltaics
  • Recombination process
  • Shockley-Read-Hall process
  • Si


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