Wet-Etching of Acoustically Spalled GaAs for Substrate Reuse

Anica Neumann, Pablo Coll, Mariana Bertoni, Myles Steiner, Emily Warren

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus Citations


Acoustic spalling is a promising technique for substrate reuse in the fabrication of gallium arsenide (GaAs) photovoltaic cells. However, the acoustic spalling process can leave the substrate with areas of rough surface morphology that can interfere with subsequent cell growth and processing. In this work, we investigate the use of wet etchants to smooth the surface of acoustically spalled GaAs substrates. We evaluated six different etchants. Of those tested, an 8:1:1 mixture of sulfuric acid, hydrogen peroxide, and water at 30 degrees C and a moderate stirring rate showed the greatest roughness reduction per mass loss while producing the desired morphology. This etchant was then applied to an acoustically spalled 2-inch GaAs wafer. A single-junction GaAs cell was then grown via metalorganic vapor-phase epitaxy on this substrate, an acoustic spalled substrate without a smoothing etch, and an epi-ready substrate. Use of the 8:1:1 H2SO4:H2O2:H2O etchant produced cells an average efficiency of 12.8% as compared to that of 2.0% grown on the unetched acoustically spalled substrate and 16.3% grown on the epi-ready substrate. The results of this work demonstrate that wet etching is a viable method for smoothing the surface of spalled GaAs substrates, paving the way for substrate reuse via acoustic spalling at efficiencies that approach growth on epi-ready substrates.
Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)281-287
Number of pages7
JournalIEEE Journal of Photovoltaics
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2024

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5900-87558


  • etching
  • gallium arsenide
  • photovoltaic cells
  • semiconductor epitaxial layers
  • spalling


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