The Roles of ZnTe Buffer Layers on CdTe Solar Cell Performance

Teresa Barnes, Daniel Meysing, Colin Wolden, Ali Abbas, Jiaojiao Li, David Diercks, Timothy Ohno, Joseph Beach, John Walls

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

72 Scopus Citations


The use of ZnTe buffer layers at the back contact of CdTe solar cells has been credited with contributing to recent improvements in both champion cell efficiency and module stability. To better understand the controlling physical and chemical phenomena, high resolution transmission electron microscopy (HR-TEM) and atom probe tomography (APT) were used to study the evolution of the back contact region during rapid thermal processing (RTP) of this layer. After activation the ZnTe layer, initially nanocrystalline and homogenous, transforms into a bilayer structure consisting of a disordered region in contact with CdTe characterized by significant Cd-Zn interdiffusion, and a nanocrystalline layer that shows evidence of grain growth and twin formation. Copper, co-evaporated uniformly within ZnTe, is found to dramatically segregate and aggregate after RTP, either collecting near the ZnTe|Au interface or forming CuxTe clusters in the CdTe layer at defects or grain boundaries near the interface. Analysis of TEM images revealed that Zn accumulates at the edge of these clusters, and three-dimensional APT images confirmed that these are core-shell nanostructures consisting of Cu1.4Te clusters encased in Zn. These changes in morphology and composition are related to cell performance and stability.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)203-210
Number of pages8
JournalSolar Energy Materials and Solar Cells
StatePublished - Apr 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5K00-65815


  • APT
  • CdTe
  • Copper telluride
  • TEM
  • ZnTe


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