Optoelectronic simulation of nonhomogeneous solar cells
Anderson, Tom Harper
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This thesis investigates the possibility of enhancing the efficiency of thin film solar cells by including periodic material nonhomogeneities in combination with periodically corrugated back reflectors. Two different types of solar cell are investigated; p-i-n junctions solar cells made from alloys of hydrogenated amorphous silicon (a-Si:H) (containing either carbon or germanium), and Schottky barrier junction solar cells made from alloys of indium gallium nitride (InξGa1-ξN). Material nonhomogeneities are produced by varying the fractions of the constituent elements of the alloys. For example, by varying the content of carbon or germanium in the a-Si:H alloys, semiconductors with bandgaps ranging from 1:3 eV to 1:95 eV can be produced. Changing the bandgap alters both the optical and electrical properties of the material so this necessitates the use of coupled optical and electrical models. To date, the majority of solar cell simulations either prioritise the electrical portion of the simulation or they prioritise the optical portion of the simulation. In this thesis, a coupled optoelectronic model, developed using COMSOL Multiphysics®, was used to simulate solar cells: a two-dimensional finite-element optical model, which solved Maxwell's equations throughout the solar cells, was used to calculate the absorption of incident sunlight; and a finite-element electrical drift-diffusion transport model, either one- or two-dimensional depending on the symmetries of the problem, was used to calculate the steady state current densities throughout the solar cells under external voltage biases. It is shown that a periodically corrugated back reflector made from silver can increase efficiency of an a-Si:H alloy single p-i-n junction solar cell by 9:9% compared to a baseline design, while for a triple junction the improvement is a relatively meagre 1:8%. It is subsequently shown that the efficiency of these single p-i-n junction solar cells with a back reflector can be further increased by the inclusion of material nonhomogeneities, and that increasing the nonhomogeneity progressively increases efficiency, especially in thicker solar cells. In the case of InξGa1-ξN Schottky barrier junction solar cells, the gains are shown to be even greater. An overall increase in efficiency of up to 26:8% over a baseline design is reported.