Ultra-thin electron collectors based on nc-Si:H for high-efficiency silicon heterojunction solar cells

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Low parasitic absorption and high conductivity enable (n)-type hydrogenated nanocrystalline silicon [(n)nc-Si:H], eventually alloyed with oxygen [(n)nc-SiOx:H], to be deployed as window layer in high-efficiency silicon heterojunction (SHJ) solar cells. Besides the appropriate opto-electrical properties of these nanocrystalline films, reduction of their thickness is sought for minimizing parasitic absorption losses. Many strategies proposed so far reveal practical limits of the minimum (n)-layer thickness that we address and overcome in this manuscript. We demonstrated the successful application of an ultra-thin layer of only 3-nm-thick based on (n)nc-Si:H PECVD plasma growth conditions without the use of additional contact or buffer layers. For simplicity, we still name (n)nc-Si:H this ultra-thin layer and the solar cell endowed with it delivers a certified efficiency η of 22.20%. This cell shows a 0.61 mA/cm2 overall JSC gain over the (n)a-Si:H counterpart mainly owing to the higher transparency of (n)nc-Si:H, while maintaining comparable VOC > 714 mV and FF > 80%. Our optimized (n)nc-Si:H layer yields low absorption losses that are commonly measured for (n)nc-SiOx:H films. In this way, we are able to avoid the detrimental effect that oxygen incorporation has on the electrical parameters of these functional layers. Further, by applying a MgF2/ITO double-layer anti-reflection coating, a cell with 3-nm-thick (n)nc-Si:H exhibits a JSC,EQE up to 40.0 mA/cm2. By means of EDX elemental mapping, we additionally identified the (n)nc-Si:H/ITO interface as critical for electron transport due to unexpected oxidation. To avoid this interfacial oxidation, insertion of a 2-nm-thick (n)a-Si:H on the 3-nm-thick (n)nc-Si:H contributes to FF gains of 1.4%abs. (FF increased from 78.6% to 80.0%), and showing further room for improvements.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages14
JournalProgress in Photovoltaics: research and applications
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • (n)-type window layers
  • hydrogenated nanocrystalline silicon
  • hydrogenated nanocrystalline silicon oxide
  • opto-electrical properties
  • ultra-thin (n)-contact


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