Teferi, M.Y.; Malissa, H.; Morales-Vilches, A.B.; Trinh, C.T.; Korte, L.; Stannowski, B.; Williams, C.C.; Boehme, C.; Lips, K.: Imaging of bandtail states in silicon heterojunction solar cells. ACS Applied Nano Materials 4 (2021), p. 2404–2412
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Silicon heterojunction (SHJ) solar cells represent a promising technological approach toward higher photovoltaic efficiencies and lower fabrication cost. While the device physics of SHJ solar cells has been studied extensively in the past, the ways in which nanoscopic electronic processes such as charge-carrier generation, recombination, trapping, and percolation affect SHJ device properties macroscopically are yet to be fully understood. We report the study of atomic-scale current percolation at state-of-the-art a-Si:H/c-Si heterojunction solar cells at room temperature, revealing the profound complexity of electronic SHJ interface processes. Using conduction atomic force microscopy, it is shown that the macroscopic current–voltage characteristics of SHJ solar cells are governed by the average of local nanometer-sized percolation pathways associated with bandtail states of the doped a-Si:H selective contact leading to above bandgap local photovoltages (VOCloc) as high as 1.2 V (eVOCloc > EgapSi). This is not in violation of photovoltaic device physics but a consequence of the nature of nanometer-scale charge percolation pathways that originate from trap-assisted tunneling causing dark leakage current. We show that the broad distribution of nanoscopic local photovoltage is a direct consequence of randomly trapped charges at a-Si:H dangling bond defects, which lead to strong local potential fluctuations and induce random telegraph noise of the dark current.