The Formation Mechanism for Printed Silver-Contacts for Silicon Solar Cells

Jeremy D. Fields, Md Imteyaz Ahmad, Vanessa L. Pool, Jiafan Yu, Douglas G. Van Campen, Philip A. Parilla, Michael F. Toney, Maikel F.A.M. Van Hest

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

108 Scopus Citations


Screen-printing provides an economically attractive means for making Ag electrical contacts to Si solar cells, but the use of Ag substantiates a significant manufacturing cost, and the glass frit used in the paste to enable contact formation contains Pb. To achieve optimal electrical performance and to develop pastes with alternative, abundant and non-toxic materials, a better understanding the contact formation process during firing is required. Here, we use in situ X-ray diffraction during firing to reveal the reaction sequence. The findings suggest that between 500 and 650 °C PbO in the frit etches the SiNx antireflective-coating on the solar cell, exposing the Si surface. Then, above 650 °C, Ag+ dissolves into the molten glass frit-key for enabling deposition of metallic Ag on the emitter surface and precipitation of Ag nanocrystals within the glass. Ultimately, this work clarifies contact formation mechanisms and suggests approaches for development of inexpensive, nontoxic solar cell contacting pastes.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number11143
Number of pages7
JournalNature Communications
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2016

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5K00-66096


  • contact formation
  • in situ X-ray diffraction
  • silicon photovoltaics


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