Computational design of passivants for CdTe grain boundaries

FG Sen and A Mannodi-Kanakkithodi and T Paulauskas and JL Guo and LH Wang and A Rockett and MJ Kim and RF Klie and MKY Chan, SOLAR ENERGY MATERIALS AND SOLAR CELLS, 232, 111279 (2021).

DOI: 10.1016/j.solmat.2021.111279

CdTe is the second most-widely deployed photovoltaic (PV) material due to its high efficiency and low manufacturing costs. Currently, polycrystalline CdTe (poly-CdTe) has a record efficiency of similar to 22%, which is still well below the theoretical limit (similar to 30%). Polycrystalline CdTe films that have incorporated Cl or Se show higher efficiency, possibly due to the segregation of these ions to the grain boundaries (GBs), where they may passivate the dangling bonds. However, the efficiency enhancement mechanisms of passivants in CdTe GBs, and the feasibility of employing alternative passivants, have not been well explored. Here, we present a systematic computational study of CdTe GBs with potential passivants, namely S, P, As, Se, and Sb on Te sites, and Na, Mg, Al, Sc, Cu, and Zn on Cd sites. Density functional theory (DFT) calculations were performed on GB dislocation core structures derived from scanning transmission electron microscopy (STEM) images of a model GB (bicrystal). We computed the segregation thermodynamics, electronic density of states, and charge variations near doped CdTe GBs. We find that segregation of impurities to GBs is thermodynamically favorable. For a Te-terminated core, Se, S, and P on Te sites effectively reduce midgap states. For both Cd-and Te-terminated dislocation cores, Sc and Al reduce midgap states when substituted for Cd atoms. The greatest improvement was achieved with co-doping, i.e. simultaneously substituting Te with Se and substituting Cd with Cu or Al. The elimination of midgap states is predicted to increase the photovoltaic efficiency of CdTe by reducing the recombination at grain boundaries.

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