Structure and Electronic Properties of Mesopores in Si PV Devices with PLEO Contacts

Harvey Guthrey, Caroline Lima Salles, William Nemeth, Sumit Agarwal, David Young, Pauls Stradins

Research output: NRELPresentation


All current state-of-the-art silicon photovoltaic (PV) devices employ some flavor of passivating contact structure to minimize detrimental recombination while providing good conductivity. These properties are most often provided by a dielectric layer (SiNx, Al2O3, or SiOx) that is in contact with the crystalline silicon (c-Si) substrate. The effectiveness of these layers is heavily dependent on the nanoscale structure of both the dielectric layers and the crystalline silicon interface. As an example, the tunneling probability for charge carriers across thin SiOx layers, a process that is critical to maintain high conductivity, is extremely sensitive to the SiOx thickness. SiOx with a thickness below 2 nm readily allows charge carrier tunneling, whereas it is impeded for greater thicknesses. In the latter case it has been shown that modifications to the thermal processing schedule can induce disruptions, or pinholes, in thick SiOx layers that allow transport of charge carriers while maintaining excellent passivation. However, this requires higher temperatures processes that may inhibit widespread adoption by industry. Recently, another option has been presented that may circumvent the necessity for high temperature processing, namely metal assisted chemical etching (MACE). MACE relies on deposition of Ag nanoparticles onto the SiOx layers with subsequent electroless etching to form mesopores in the SiOx layers that are analogous to the pinholes created with high temperature processing. The size and density can be controlled based on the Ag nanoparticle deposition conditions. The resulting contact structure is known as polysilicon on locally etched oxide (PLEO) contacts. The nanoscale structure of the mesopores in PLEO contacts define the device level observables such as recombination current (Jo) and junction resistance. In this work we present atomic resolution transmission electron microscopy (TEM) analysis of mesopores in PLEO contacts formed with a different processing conditions to connect provide insight into how the nanoscale structure of the SiOx layer influences PV device properties. Additionally, we have previously used electron beam induced current (EBIC) to probe local transport properties in Si PV devices with a SiOx layer containing pinholes due to high temperature processing. Using EBIC we were able to directly show the enhance charge carrier transport through the pinholes. Here we also employ EBIC to study non-uniformities in charge carrier recombination and transport associated with mesopores in PLEO contacts and compare these results with our previous work on devices with pinholes in the SiOx formed through high temperature processes. The products of this work provide critical information that is required to both further optimize performance of Si PV devices with PLEO contact and to drive future adoption of this technology by industry.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages16
StatePublished - 2021

Publication series

NamePresented at the Materials Research Society (MRS) Fall Meeting, 6-8 December 2021

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/PR-5K00-81631


  • passivated contact
  • photovoltaic
  • silicon
  • tranmission electron microscopy


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