The Cu(In,Ga)Se<sub>2</sub> (CIGS) thin film solar cell technology has made a steady progress within the last decade reaching efficiency up to 22.3% on laboratory scale, thus overpassing the highest efficiency for polycrystalline silicon solar cells. High efficiency CIGS modules employ a so-called buffer layer of cadmium sulfide CdS deposited by Chemical Bath Deposition (CBD), which presence and Cd-containing waste present some environmental concerns. A second potential bottleneck for CIGS technology is its window layer made of i-ZnO/ZnO:Al, which is deposited by sputtering requiring expensive vacuum equipment. A non-vacuum deposition of transparent conductive oxide (TCO) relying on simpler equipment with lower investment costs will be more economically attractive, and could increase competitiveness of CIGS-based modules with the mainstream silicon-based technologies. In the frame of Novazolar project, we have developed a low-cost aqueous solution photo assisted electrodeposition process of the ZnO-based window layer for high efficiency CIGS-based solar cells. The window layer deposition have been first optimized on classical CdS buffer layer leading to cells with efficiencies similar to those measured with the sputtered references on the same absorber (15%). The the optimized ZnO doped layer has been adapted to cadmium free devices where the CdS is replaced by chemical bath deposited zinc oxysulfide Zn(S,O) buffer layer. The effect of different growth parameters has been studied on CBD-Zn(S,O)-plated co-evaporated Cu(In,Ga)Se<sub>2</sub> substrates provided by the Zentrum für Sonnenenergie-und Wasserstoff-Forschung (ZSW). This optimization of the electrodeposition of ZnO:Cl on CIGS/Zn(S,O) stacks led to record efficiency of 14%, while the reference cell with a sputtered (Zn,Mg)O/ZnO:Al window layer has an efficiency of 15.2%.
The highest and most reproducible (Cu(In,Ga)Se<sub>2</sub> (CIGSe) based solar-cell efficiencies are obtained by use of a very thin n-type CdS layer deposited by chemical bath deposition (CBD). However because of both Cadmium’s adverse environmental impact and the narrow bandgap of CdS (2.4–2.5 eV) one of the major objectives in the field of CIGSe technology remains the development and implementation in the production line of Cd-free buffer layers. The CBDZn( S,O) remains one the most studied buffer layer for replacing the CdS in Cu(In,Ga)Se<sub>2</sub>-based solar cells and has already demonstrated its potential to lead to high-efficiency solar cells up to 22.3%. However one of the key issue to implement a CBD-Zn(S,O) process in a CIGSe production line is the cells stability, which depends both on the deposition conditions of CBD-Zn(S,O) and on a good band alignment between CIGSe/Zn(S,O)/windows layers. The most common window layers applied in CIGSe solar cells consist of two layers : a thin (50–100 nm) and highly resistive i-ZnO layer deposited by magnetron sputtering and a transparent conducting 300–500 nm ZnO:Al layer. In the case of CBD-Zn(S,O) buffer layer, the nature and deposition conditions of both Zn(S,O) and the undoped window layer can strongly influence the performance and stability of cells. The present contribution will be specially focused on the effect of condition growth of CBD-Zn(S,O) buffer layers and the impact of the composition and deposition conditions of the undoped window layers such as Zn<sub>x</sub>Mg<sub>y</sub>O or Zn<sub>x</sub>Sn<sub>y</sub>O on the stability and performance of these solar cells.