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Silicon nitride thin films in μc silicon solar cell production

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By Hubert -Joachim Frenck, Leader of Vacuum Division, Process Development Department, Q-Cell AG

The deposition of thin films is a key technology for a large variety of technical and scientific applications. Among them is the deposition of silicon nitride (SiNx) to passivate the surface of silicon solar cells. The SiN film serves several purposes. It is a broadband anti-reflection layer, it serves to saturate dangling bonds and/or other surface states of the silicon, and last but not least, it is a protection layer to prevent alkali ions and other impurities from diffusing into the silicon causing perturbations of the performance of the solar cell. This multitude of properties to be fulfilled at the same time often causes difficulties in assessing the effect of a single process parameter, let alone the task of optimizing the SiN film in all required aspects at the same time. The aforementioned technical features of the SiN film provide the very property that largely determines the aesthetically pleasing appearance of a cell, and hence a PV module, as the colour of the module is determined by the cell composition. In order to complicate things further, there are numerous deposition techniques being applied both on a scientific level as well as in production environments.

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The first edition of the Photovoltaics International journal, published in August 2008, was created in response to what was deemed to be a growing need for an unbiased technical publication for the solar cell and module manufacturing industry. With this in mind, the first edition of Photovoltaics International saw the commissioning of papers from a wide range of sectors, such as NREL’s overview of the CPV sector, IMEC’s thin-film efficiency gains via plasma texturing, site selection with IBM PLI, Q-Cells on silicon nitride thin films and Navigant Consulting’s market overview.

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