Embedded nanostructures such as quantum dots (QDs) have been studied for many applications in solar cells including enhanced mini-band absorption in intermediate-band solar cells and current matching in multi junction cells. The major drawbacks of using such techniques to decrease intrinsic solar cell loss mechanisms are twofold: first, it is difficult to maintain partially populated states using QDs due to a quick thermal extraction of carriers; second, QDs have a weak absorption which necessitates a near-perfect control of QD growth mechanisms to carefully ensure a balance between dot size and density. One avenue for improving absorption into QDs is to utilize a thin cell with a back surface reflector in order to increase the effective optical path length (OPL) of light through the QD region, which has the potential to increase absorption into QD states. One method for the processing of thin solar cells that has been experimentally demonstrated on large 4-6” wafers is epitaxial lift-off, which takes advantage of an inverted growth and a wet chemical etch of a sacrificial release layer to remove the substrate.
In this thesis, 0.25 cm2 InAs/GaAs QD cells were grown on 4” wafers, fabricated, and processed by epitaxial lift off, creating thin and flexible devices. Materials and optical characterization techniques such as atomic force microscopy and photoluminescence were used on test structures prior to and following ELO, and analysis indicated that QD optical coherence and material quality after ELO processing were preserved, although non-uniform. This was concluded to be caused by the radial thermal profile of the growth reactor, through which spatial dependence led to local variations in QD quality and size across the 4” wafer, indicative of the high temperature sensitivity of QDs. Transmission electron microscopy measurements were used to investigate defects and dislocations throughout the QD device structure that would impact performance, and showed a higher concentration of defects in regions of the wafer subject to a higher temperature during growth. A similar pattern of radial dependence was observed in solar cell devices by electrical characterization. Current-voltage measurements under one-sun AM0 illumination were taken on several cells around the wafer, showing a statistical variation in solar cell device metrics dependent on wafer position. Spectral responsivity measurements show an established cavity mode pattern in sub-host bandgap wavelengths, which is discussed as an enhancement due to the thinning of the device. Integrated external quantum efficiency shows a QD contribution to the short circuit current density of 0.23 mA/cm2.
In addition to optical, materials, and electrical characterization, QD and baseline ELO devices were exposed to alpha radiation to gauge the effects of a harmful environment on cell performance. The QD device exhibited a remaining factor increase of 2 % (absolute) in conversion efficiency over the baseline device at an end of life alpha particle fluence of 5x109α/cm2/s. In addition, linear temperature coefficients for solar cell figures of merit were extracted as a function of increasing α fluence. At a fluence of 5x108α/cm2/s, the QD device showed an efficiency temperature coefficient 0.2 %/°C higher (absolute) than the baseline, indicating that the inclusion of QDs could improve the radiation and temperature tolerance of solar cell devices used for space applications.
Materials Science and Engineering (MS)
Department, Program, or Center
Center for Materials Science and Engineering
Seth M. Hubbard
Bennett, Mitchell F., "Quantum Dot Enhanced Epitaxial Lift-Off Solar Cells" (2013). Thesis. Rochester Institute of Technology. Accessed from
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