Micro- and nanostructures can be used for reflectance reduction or light guidance in applications like photovoltaic solar cells, LEDs or display technology. The combination of interference lithography and nanoimprint lithography enables the fabrication and replication of high resolution structures on large areas. The origination of master structures, seamlessly patterned on areas as large as 1.2 × 1.2 m2 was shown using interference lithography. Within this work we demonstrate our current results on the up-scaling of the replication process chain based on nanoimprint lithography with in-line capable tools. Application examples in the fields of photovoltaics are demonstrated, e.g. the micron-scale patterning of multicrystalline silicon substrates to increase the solar cell efficiency. Furthermore, the lifetime of soft PDMS stamps is investigated. AFM force-distance measurements are introduced as suitable method to quantify the PDMS hardness as a parameter indicating stamp degradation. This technique is subsequently applied to evaluate two different resist materials. Applying the epoxy material (SU-8) with its more complex molecular structure results in a strongly increased stamp lifetime compared to the acrylate resist (Laromer LR 8996). This is a highly valuable result for further developments towards an up-scaled realization of nanoimprint lithography.
After more than 20 years of research on rear side gratings for light trapping in solar cells, we have been able to demonstrate enhanced efficiencies for crystalline silicon solar cells with two different grating concepts and solar cell architectures. In both cases planar front sides have been used. With hexagonal sphere gratings and the tunnel oxide passivated contact (TOPCon) concept, a grating induced Jsc increase of 1.4 mA/cm2 and an efficiency increase of 0.8%absolute could be achieved. With binary crossed gratings fabricated by a nanoimprint based process chain, a grating induced Jsc gain of 1.2 mA/cm2 and an efficiency gain of 0.7% absolute could be achieved. For the binary grating concept, cell thickness variations have also been performed. The increasing importance of the light trapping properties towards low solar cell thicknesses could be confirmed by an enhanced EQE in the long wavelength region (Jsc increase: 1.6 mA/cm2 for 150 μm and 1.8 mA/cm2 for 100 μm thick solar cells). The results are in very good agreement with simulations using the OPTOS modeling formalism. OPTOS enables the further analysis and optimization of grating concepts in silicon solar cells and modules. So a grating induced Jsc gain of 0.8 mA/cm2 is forecast for solar cells with pyramidal front side texture. On module level, still a grating induced Jsc gain of 0.6 mA/cm2 can be expected.
We investigate the integration of Al nanoparticle arrays into the anti-reflection coatings (ARCs) of commercial triple-junction GaInP/ In0.01GaAs /Ge space solar cells, and study their effect on the radiation-hardness. It is postulated that the presence of nanoparticle arrays can improve the radiation-hardness of space solar cells by scattering incident photons obliquely into the device, causing charger carriers to be photogenerated closer to the junction, and hence improving the carrier collection efficiency in the irradiation-damaged subcells. The Al nanoparticle arrays were successfully embedded in the ARCs, over large areas, using nanoimprint lithography: a replication technique with the potential for high throughput and low cost. Irradiation testing showed that the presence of the nanoparticles did not improve the radiation-hardness of the solar cells, so the investigated structure has proven not to be ideal in this context. Nonetheless, this paper reports on the details and results of the nanofabrication to inform about future integration of alternative light-scattering structures into multi-junction solar cells or other optoelectronic devices.
Surface textures can significantly improve anti-reflective and light trapping properties of silicon solar cells. Combining standard pyramidal front side textures with scattering or diffractive rear side textures has the potential to further increase the light path length inside the silicon and thereby increase the solar cell efficiency. In this work we introduce the OPTOS (Optical Properties of Textured Optical Sheets) simulation formalism and apply it to the modelling of silicon solar cells with different surface textures at front and rear side. OPTOS is a matrix-based method that allows for the computationally-efficient calculation of non-coherent light propagation within textured solar cells, featuring multiple textures that may operate in different optical regimes. After calculating redistribution matrices for each individual surface texture with the most appropriate technique, optical properties like angle dependent reflectance, transmittance or absorptance can be determined via matrix multiplications. Using OPTOS, we demonstrate for example that the integration of a diffractive grating at the rear side of solar cells with random pyramids at the front results in an absorptance gain that corresponds to a photocurrent density enhancement of 0.73 mA/cm2 for a 250 μm thick cell. The re-usability of matrices enables the investigation of different solar cell thicknesses within minutes. For thicknesses down to 50 μm the simulated gain increases up to 1.22 mA/cm2. The OPTOS formalism is furthermore not restricted with respect to the number of textured interfaces. By combining two or more textured sheets to effective interfaces, it is possible to optically model a complete photovoltaic module including EVA and potentially textured glass layers with one calculation tool.
Interference lithography (IL) is the best suited technology for the origination of large area master structures with high resolution. In prior works, we seamlessly pattern areas of up to 1.2 x 1.2 m2 with periodic features, i.e. a diffraction grating with a period in the micron range. For this process we use an argon ion laser emitting at 363.8 nm. Thus, feasible periods are in the range of 100 μm to 200 nm. Edge-defined techniques or also called (self-aligned) double patterning processes can be used to double the spatial frequency of such structures. This way, we aim to reduce achievable periods further down to 100 nm. In order to replicate master structures, we make use of nanoimprint lithography (NIL) processes. In this work, we present results using IL as mastering and NIL as replication technology in the fields of photovoltaics as well as display and lighting applications. In photovoltaics different concepts like the micron-scale patterning of the front side as well as the realization of rear side diffraction gratings are presented. The benefit for each is shown on final device level. In the context of display and lighting applications, we realized various structures ranging from designed, symmetric or asymmetric, diffusers, antireflective and/or antiglare structures, polarization optical elements (wire grid polarizers), light guidance and light outcoupling structures.
A large variety of optical systems incorporate multiple textured surfaces for reflectance reduction, light redirection or absorptance enhancement. One example for such a system is a textured silicon wafer solar cell. We introduce the OPTOS (Optical Properties of Textured Optical Sheets) formalism for the modelling of light propagation and absorption in optically thick sheets with two arbitrary surface textures at the front and rear side, and demonstrate applications.
In contrast to many optical simulation techniques, which are tailored to specific surface morphologies, the OPTOS formalism is a matrix-based method that allows including textures that are described by different optical modelling techniques (e.g. ray optical or wave optical) within one simulation tool. It offers the computationally efficient simulation of light redistribution and non-coherent propagation inside thick sheets. After calculating redistribution matrices for each individual surface texture with the most appropriate technique, optical properties of the complete textured sheet, like e. g. angle dependent reflectance, transmittance or depth resolved absorptance, can be determined via iterative matrix multiplications (for propagation and redistribution) with low computational effort.
In this work, we focus on textured wafer-based silicon solar cells as application examples for the OPTOS formalism. The simulation enables us to investigate and optimize combinations of front and rear textures on solar cells in order to increase the photocurrent generation. A solar cell with inverted pyramid front side and a diffractive grating at the rear is found to show similar light trapping properties as one with Lambertian scattering at the rear.
Due to its high resolution and applicability for large area patterning, nanoimprint lithography (NIL) is a promising technology for photovoltaic (PV) applications. However, a successful industrial application of NIL processes is only possible if large-area processing on thin, brittle, and potentially rough substrates can be achieved in a high-throughput process. The development of NIL processes using the SmartNIL technology from EV Group with a focus on PV applications is described. The authors applied this tooling to realize a honeycomb texture (8 μm period) on the front side of multicrystalline silicon solar cells, leading to an improvement in optical efficiency of 7% relative and a total efficiency gain of 0.5% absolute compared to the industrial standard texture (isotexture). On the rear side of monocrystalline silicon solar cells, the authors realized diffraction gratings to make use of light trapping effects. An absorption enhancement of up to 35% absolute at a wavelength of 1100 nm is demonstrated. Furthermore, photolithography was combined with NIL processes to introduce features for metal contacts into honeycomb master structures, which were initially realized using interference lithography. As a final application, the authors investigated the realization of very fine contact fingers with prismatic shape in order to minimize reflection losses.
Due to its high resolution and applicability for large area patterning, Nanoimprint Lithography (NIL) is a promising technology for photovoltaic (PV) applications. However, a successful industrial application of NIL processes is only possible if large-area processing on thin, brittle and potentially rough substrates can be achieved in a high-throughput process. In this work, the development of NIL processes using the novel SmartNILTM technology from EV Group with a focus on PV applications is described. We applied this tooling to realize a honeycomb texture (8 μm period) on the front side of multicrystalline silicon solar cells leading to an improvement in optical efficiency of 7% relative and a total efficiency gain of 0.5% absolute compared to the industrial standard texture (isotexture). On the rear side of monocrystalline silicon solar cells, we realized diffraction gratings to make use of light trapping effects. An absorption enhancement of up to 35% absolute at a wavelength of 1100 nm is demonstrated. Furthermore, we combined photolithography and NIL processes to introduce features for metal contacts into honeycomb master structures, which initially were realized using interference lithography. As final application, we investigated the realization of very fine contact fingers with prismatic shape in order to minimize reflection losses.
Crystalline silicon solar cells absorb light in the near infrared only weakly. To utilize also the infrared light of the solar spectrum with energies still greater than the band gap of silicon, the effective path of the light inside the solar cell has to be enhanced. Light paths can be manipulated at the front side as well as at the rear side of a solar cell. For the front side, pyramidal textures that also show anti-reflection properties are widely used. These anti-reflection properties, however, can also be achieved with planar dielectric coatings or nanostructured surfaces. In this case, the path length enhancement can be achieved with rear side structures that are especially optimized for this purpose, thus de-coupling anti-reflection and path-length enhancement functionalities. This de-coupling creates leeway to optimize not only the optical properties but also the electrical properties of the optically active structures, and to realize structures that are compatible with very thin silicon wafers. To this end, this paper investigates two kinds of diffractive rear side structures, both, theoretically and experimentally. First, hexagonal sphere gratings that are produced by a self-organized growth process using spin coating, and second, binary gratings produced via nano-imprint lithography. Both process chains are potentially scalable to large areas. In optical measurements we determined potential photocurrent density gains of over 1 mA/cm2 for 250 μm thick wafers for both structures. Furthermore, we developed a process for contact formation as one key step to fully processed solar cells with diffractive rear side structures.