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Iowa State University

Optimization of Solar Cell Grid Design

Luke Dahlman, Brandon Dixon, Thomas Henry EE332Semiconductor Materials and Devices Dr. Dalal 21 November 2013

Due to the steep decline in finite, natural resources, solar power has become a focus not only for engineers and politicians, but also for the general public. In order to relieve the need for oil, solar cells must be created with different parameters and goals in mind; whether it is to minimize costs or to maximize total power generated. The goal of this analytical report is to provide the mathematical approach, design, and detailed process description for building a solar cell. The parameters given for use in our evaluation include an open-circuit voltage of 0.67 Volts and a short-circuit current density of 40mA/cm2. The finalized solar cell, with all loss accounted, was to be able to generate a minimum power of 1.81W given a pre-loss power output of 2.01W for the total cell. For a 10cm by 10cm cell (the dimensions given), we found that it was possible to design a solar cell that generated power at an efficiency of 18.894%, showing six percent of generated power lost to shadowing, the emitter, finger resistance, and buss bar resistance.


Table of Contents
Introduction 4 Design Details..... 6 Manufacturing Technique..... 11 Conclusion. 18 References..... 19


Power generation through the use of solar cells has been a concept that physicists and engineers alike have been developing and improving for centuries. This form of generation is made possible by the photovoltaic effect, first discovered by Alexander-Edmond Becquerel in 1839 [1]. Becquerel used a primitive design that developed a current flow between two electrolytic cells that varied with the amount of light present. Working off of Becquerels discovery, Albert Einstein developed the photoelectric effect and the photon concepts [2].

This relationship between light and the production of electricity continued to be studied but it was not until the 1950s that production of solar panels was available on the commercial market. The first solar panels were very inefficient and expensive to produce, with a cost approaching $1750 per Watt. With a growing demand for clean, renewable energy sources private industry and governments alike have invested billions of dollars to further the production of electricity from light. The solar panels being used today produce energy with a 20-25% efficiency rating leaving much room for improvement and innovation in the field of photovoltaics. The phenomenon of photovoltaics is made possible by a semiconductors ability to absorb photons and release electrons. P+n or n+p junctions are used to collect these electrons and direct them into a DC current flow [3]. When photons, in the form of light energy, enter a semiconductor, energy from light breaks chemical bounds which are holding electrons in lower energy states. These electrons originally reside in the negatively charged side of semiconductor and travel to higher energy states on the positively charged side of the semiconductor. The amount of electrons that are transferred is dependent upon the bandgap, doping concentrations, and built in voltage of the material being used.

As freed electrons move to higher energy states they are attracted towards the positively charged holes on the p side of the semiconductor. The empty spaces they leave behind, known as holes, gravitate towards the negatively charged side of the material in an attempt to get the semiconductor to equilibrium. This movement of electrons and holes causes a separation of charge in the semiconductor and thus an electric current can be produced [4]. When many of


these cells are paralleled together they can produce enough current to create a typical 12V circuit
(Figure 1).

Figure 1: Band diagram showing photovoltaic absorption of photons and the release of electrons.

While designing and producing solar cells, developers face two major challenges. In a price driven economy individuals will not purchase products unless the cost/benefit ratio swings in their favor. As the price of natural gas continues to lower the market is not solely backing renewable energies like solar. This means that solar panels must be produced in an efficient and inexpensive manner in order for them to compete with fossil fuels and nuclear energy. Finding materials that can hold up to harsh environments and will not diffuse into the semiconductor can be a daunting task. For our solar cell we used a silver based material made by DuPont.

During the course of this project our team had to overcome obstacles to develop a solar cell that would produce power with emitter, resistance and shadowing losses below ten percent of the total power produced by the cell. It was difficult to find the actual sheet resistance and emulsion thickness of our selected material. Since PV17F is a relatively new material not as many resources are available on the internet but we were able to locate the necessary values. Another problem we encountered was that it was difficult to identify the actual values to use since the equations are given in terms of per unit cell. After reading numerous books in Iowa States library concerning the production of solar cells we were able to overcome this obstacle.

Design Details
The following table contains the constraints that were given for our solar cell: Name Voltage Open Circuit Current Density Short Circuit Fill Factor Resistivity of n+ material Input Power Area of wafer Power produced by solar cell Area FF Abbreviated Value .67V 40mA/cm2 0.75 100/ 100mW/cm2 10cm x 10cm 20.1 mW/cm2 before losses

Using the values in the table above and the equations starting on the next page, we were able to optimize the equations to find the dimensions that gave the lowest losses. Name Width of the finger Width of the Buss Bar Abbreviated Value 0.005cm 0.01cm In the equations below the unit cell we work with only factors the width of the Buss Bar at a time so 0.005cm was used Length of the Finger Length of Buss Bar 1.66167cm 10cm Similar to the width of the buss bar, only half the length of each buss bar falls in a unit cell for our solar cell so in the equations listed below 5cm was used Sheet Resistivity of Finger Sheet Resistivity of Buss Bar 1.5/ 1.5/ Meaning


Spacing between Fingers


This is the total space from finger to finger, therefore only half of this value falls in each unit cell hence the equations below have (S/2)

Voltage maximum Current Density Maximum

.5V 40mA/cm2

In the given problem the short circuit current density and open circuit voltage are given values. We were also told that the cell has a fill factor of . Looking at the sizes of Current and Voltage, we see that voltage is much larger therefore the change of current on the IV curve to find the max will result in a marginal change, meaning that voltage will account for the change in power. We therefore multiplied the fill factor by our open circuit voltage to find the voltage when the solar cell is producing its maximum amount of power, a value required in the calculations to find power loss.

Another value that we had to calculate was the resistivity of the material that was to be used for our buss bars and fingers. After doing some research it was decided to use DuPonts PV17F silver paste. According to the materials data sheet (Figure 8) the sheet resistance of PV17F is .5m. Two layers of this material would be used meaning the thickness of the buss bars and fingers would be 30m. Since the buss bars and fingers are made of the same material and have the same thickness the sheet resistivity of them are equal. The sheet resistivity was found to be 1.5/square. ( ( ) )

To find percentage of power that is lost in the emitter layer, or the n+ layer, we calculated the power lost in one section of our solar cell and divided it by the total power generated by that section [5]. This gave us a ratio that can be compared to the rest of the cell since this ratio will be the same throughout the rest of the solar cell. To find the power lost in the emitter layer we looked at the current in the emitter layer. In this layer the current flows along the fingers and along the buss bars. We then integrated this by dR along the line 0 to (S/2) to give us the total power loss in each section. The total power generated in this section was calculated and we found a percent loss in the emitter layer to be 0.667%. Power lost in emitter (n+ layer) = Total Power Generated =
( )

Percent power loss by the emitter=

We used the same concept to find the resistance losses in the Buss Bar and fingers. These losses were then normalized to our unit cell. Percent Power loss from Buss Bar Resistance=

Percent Power loss from Finger Resistance= For the shadowing loss we used the same unit cell approach since this ratio is the same throughout the entire solar cell. Percent Power loss from Buss Bar Shadowing= Percent Power loss from Finger Shadowing=

The above equations account for the losses from the emitter (top layer), resistance losses in the buss bars and finger as well as the losses from shadowing. To find the total loss from our solar cell all of these values need to be added together and then multiplied by the total power created by the solar cell to find the added loss.


+ + + ( (

) )

From the above equation it was found that the total percent loss from the emitter, resistance and shadowing loss to be 6.001% which is well below the necessary 10% limit. With this loss the designed solar cell will actually produce 19.9mW/cm2 of power.

The design that was chosen to enable a low percent loss included three buss bars and 48 fingers per vertical section. The buss bars and fingers were screen printed to the same height using a process described later in this paper. A section of the solar cell used for our design is shown in
Figure 2.

The values used (i.e. finger and buss bar width/height, spacing and number) were chosen

to maximize efficiency within the parameters set by our materials and processes used to produce this solar cell.


Figure 2: Image of a section of our solar cell grid.

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Manufacturing Technique
Screen printing is the transfer of an ink by forcing it through a prepared screen of fine material to create a specific pattern. In the case of screen printing for solar cells, the pattern to be transferred is the pattern of grid fingers and buss bars. The prepared screen will need to be precisely fabricated in order to achieve the desired finger and buss bar widths. The process takes place in an automated printing line where the arrays will automatically advance forward to each step. The image below (Figure 3) depicts the automated screen printing process on the Applied Materials Baccini Pegaso printer.

Figure 3: Applied Materials Baccini Pegaso automated screen printing of front side contacts. [12]

The wafer given is 100cm2. Assuming that the wafers have just come from being baked, and having a negatively charged layer around all exterior surfaces, the first step to be taken is edge isolation. Edge isolation requires multiple wafers to be stacked on top of one another in order to remove the negatively charged surface on the edge. Once the wafers are stacked, the edges are to be etched by a highly reactive plasma gas (Figure 4). Etching is an abrasive process, like using fine grit sandpaper. Edge isolation can be done a few different ways, but plasma etching is the

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most economical method. Not only does it perform the edge isolation, but it also heals saw damage and reduces the risk of cell breakage [6].

Figure 4: Cells stacked for edge isolation. Arrows represent the highly reactive plasma gas used for etching wafer edges. [15]

Once the front junction and the rear junction are no longer in contact with one another, the back side of the wafer can be printed. The printing of the back side is done by simply screen printing a layer of aluminum or aluminum-based paste onto the wafer. Once the screen is removed, the wafer is left with a thick layer of wet aluminum paste. The wafer with the aluminum paste on it is then dried in an oven at 500C for approximately 20 minutes to remove any unwanted organic solvents and binding agents. The wafer is then fired at 840C for approximately 400 seconds [7]. This high temperature firing process destroys the rear n-type layer, bringing the aluminum into contact with the silicon (Figure 5). Aluminum is used to provide a back surface field that gives an enhanced long wavelength response [7], but requires a secondary printing of silver paste to obtain a solderable contact point. This rear printing allows for increased efficiency due to the fact that the light that is not absorbed during the first pass through the junction is reflected and passes through the junction again.

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Figure 5: The firing process destroys the rear n-type layer. The aluminum makes contact with the p-type material. The n-type layer is depicted in red and the aluminum is depicted in gray. [15]

At this point, the template that has been made for printing the grid fingers and buss bars is lowered onto the front side of the wafer (Figure 6). This part of the process is done after the printing of the back side because the front side contacts are much more delicate. The printing of the front side is done using the screen printing method; however a silver ink is used rather than an aluminum paste. The patterning of the lines, once screen printed will be left on the front side of the wafer. The wafer is fired again at approximately 200C for ten minutes on a vertical dryer, then at approximately 225C on an infrared belt dryer for one minute [8]; it is crucial that this firing does not destroy the n-type layer where the grid fingers and buss bars have been printed. The destruction of the n-type layer during the firing process in these parts would essentially cause the cell to be short circuited [7].

Figure 6: The collection grid (grid fingers and buss bars) is screen printed. The template for printing is depicted in blue, between the front side n-type layer and the mesh. [15]

The printing of the grid fingers and buss bars, as shown in Figure 6, is repeated a second time, allowing for narrower, thicker grid fingers and buss bars. This will increase efficiency of the cell because of the shadowing effect, as less surface area of the wafer will be blocked by the collection grid as a whole. By making the grid fingers and buss bars narrower, they must also be
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made thicker to account for the conductivity that is lost. Essentially what it comes down to is that the fingers can be made narrower, but must retain the same cross-sectional area. Now, the finished product is ready to be hermetically encapsulated (Figure 7). Hermetic encapsulation will allow for the cell series resistance increase [to] be avoided by preventing a decrease in the conductivity of the thin barrier film. [7]

Figure 7: The finished cell. Hermetic encapsulation does not alter the appearance. [15]

The silver ink that we have decided to use for making our solderable contacts on the back side of the cell, as well as the grid fingers and buss bars is made by DuPont. The ink is DuPont Solamet PV17F. For the specifications on the PV17F ink, see the table below (Figure 8) [9].

Figure 8: General specifications for the PV17x family of screen printable silver inks. [9]

The aluminum back-side tabbing paste that we decided to use is DuPont Solamet PV51G. By using this paste, we can also decrease the temperature and time needed for firing the backside aluminum tabbing paste, and increase the rate of production. For specifications on the PV51G paste, see the product description below (Figure 9) [10].

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Figure 9: Description of PV51x paste. The paste is co-firable with the front-side silver paste and can decrease cost of production. [10]

We chose the combination of the above listed ink and paste as they are capable of being co-fired
(Figure 9) [10].

This allows for the conjoining of two of the firing processes (the firing of the back

side Aluminum tabbing paste and the firing of the base layer of grid fingers and buss bars) into one process [14]. One of the companies offering a modular system that can be adapted to perform each step is Applied Materials. Their system, Applied Baccini Pegaso, can process solar cells as small as 125mm2, and is capable of producing the size of cell we need [11][12]. For an example of an assembled Applied Baccini Pegaso system see Figure 10 below. The Pegaso modular system can be assembled to: 1. Etch the wafers using highly reactive plasma gas. 2. Screen print the back side with aluminum paste. 3. Dry the aluminum paste at 200C for 10 minutes on a vertical dryer. 4. Dry the aluminum paste at 225C for 1 minute on an IR belt dryer. 5. Screen print the base layer of grid fingers and buss bars at the desired width using silver ink. 6. Dry the grid fingers and buss bars at 200C for 10 minutes on a vertical dryer. 7. Dry the grid fingers and buss bars at 225C for 1 minute on an IR belt dryer.

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8. Co-fire the back side tabbing paste and the front side grid ink near 600C, spiking the temperature to a peak of 770C for short durations. See the firing profiles below for more details (Figure 11) [9][13]. 9. Align a second screen within an 8m tolerance. 10. Print a secondary layer of grid fingers and buss bars using the silver ink. 11. Fire the cell again. 12. Automatically inspect each cell. 13. Automatically reject defective cells. 14. Hermetically encapsulate the cell. The Applied Baccini Pegaso has many other great features as well. It uses independent dual lanes and printers so that, even during maintenance, 50% production capacity can be achieved. With both lanes running, the output of the machine is upwards of 2700 cells per hour. This rate can drastically decrease production times, allowing for greater profits.

Figure 10: An assembled Applied Baccini Pegaso modular system. [11]

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Figure 11(a): Firing profile for PV17F front-side ink.

Figure 11(b): Firing profile for PV51G back-side tabbing paste.

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After researching solar cell grid design, production methods and materials we were able to create a cell capable of minimizing power loss well below the desired 10% level. The combination of a silver-based grid and screen printing process made it possible to create buss bars and fingers that were taller instead of wider compared to other types of solar cells further reducing our losses. With the height of both buss bars and fingers set at 30m the width of buss bars was 0.01cm while the width of fingers was 0.005cm. We used three buss bars, each spanning the entire length of the wafer and 48 fingers per vertical column at a length of 1.67cm. A 0.2cm spacing was left between each finger. With emitter, buss bar/finger resistance and shadowing losses accounted for our solar cell produced 19.9mW/cm2. This has proven that efficiency of these cells has increased dramatically since they were first introduced and as time goes on we expect the interest in the industry to increase as well making power production from solar energy a viable option to replace non-renewable sources.

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