This initial attempt also lowered the absorption base energy from 2.4eV to 2.1 eV, the lowest of any III-nitride solar cell to date, and made a wider range of wavelengths available for power conversion. Power conversion efficiencies were low only 0.3 percent compared to a standard commercial cell that hums along at about 15 percent but the demonstration took place on imperfect nanowire-array templates. Refinements should lead to higher efficiencies and even lower energies.
Several unique techniques were used to create the III-nitride nanowire array solar cell. A top-down fabrication process was used to create the nanowire array by masking a gallium nitride (GaN) layer with a colloidal silica mask, followed by dry and wet etching. The resulting array consisted of nanowires with vertical sidewalls and of uniform height.
Next, shell layers containing the higher indium percentage of indium gallium nitride (InGaN) were formed on the GaN nanowire template via metal organic chemical vapor deposition. Lastly, In0.02Ga0.98N was grown, in such a way that caused the nanowires to coalescence. This process produced a canopy layer at the top, facilitating simple planar processing and making the technology manufacturable.
The results, says Wierer, although modest, represent a promising path forward for III-nitride solar cell research. The nano-architecture not only enables higher indium proportion in the InGaN layers but also increased absorption via light scattering in the faceted InGaN canopy layer, as well as air voids that guide light within the nanowire array.
|Contact: Neal Singer|
DOE/Sandia National Laboratories