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Evaluation of methods to extract parameters from current–voltage

characteristics of solar cells
Yuan Li
a
, Wenxiao Huang
a
, Huihui Huang
b
, Corey Hewitt
a
, Yonghua Chen
a
,
Guojia Fang
b
, David L. Carroll
a,⇑
a
Center for Nanotechnology and Molecular Materials, Department of Physics, Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, NC 27109, USA
b
Department of Electronic Science & Technology, School of Physics & Technology, Wuhan University, Wuhan, Hubei 430072, PR China
Received 7 September 2012; received in revised form 28 November 2012; accepted 5 December 2012
Available online 4 February 2013
Communicated by: Associate Editor Sam-Shajin Sun
Abstract
An evaluation of methods is represented to extract parameters from the current–voltage (I–V) characteristics of solar cells. This eval-
uation includes five aspects: applicability, convergence, stability, calculation speed, and error on various types of I–V data. Six current
popular extraction methods are discussed and evaluated in this work. We find that the widely adopted method using the reciprocals of
slope at two points is the fastest and simplest approach to estimating resistances, but it is an incomplete method to obtain the other
parameters. Of the five complete methods, the Ishibashi–Kimura method shows the best accuracy (4.5% average error) while having
bad applicability. Generally speaking, the Lambert W-function method is the best comprehensive method with good accuracy, applica-
bility, and convergence, though the calculation speed is relatively lower than the other four methods.
Ó 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Solar cell; Current–voltage; Extract parameters; Equivalent circuit; Evaluation
1. Introduction
In recent years, the solar cell has drawn much research
interest from many institutes and companies all over the
world. The current–voltage (I–V) of illuminated solar cells
is generally characterized using the equivalent circuit
(Fig. 1) (Li et al., 2011), which is the most important exper-
imental measurement for showing the performance of a
solar cell. The I–V curve is not only useful for cell arrays
and system simulation, but also as an analysis tool to gain
an understanding of the internal physical mechanisms of
the solar cell (Li et al., 2012, 2009; Brabec et al., 2001; Fra-
as et al., 1991; Nie et al., 2012; Mingjun et al., 2011). In
Fig. 1 the equivalent circuit of a planar cell is described
by a current source and a diode, with two resistances, in
series and parallel. The resistance R
p
in parallel with the
diode represents the shunt resistance that can occur in real
solar cells across the surfaces, at pin holes in the p–n junc-
tion, or at grain boundaries. The series resistance R
s
accounts for all voltage drops across the transport resis-
tances of the solar cell and its connections to a load (Wu¨ rfel
and Wu¨ rfel, 2009). For conventional solar cells, the shunt
resistance R
p
comes from recombination of charge carriers
near the dissociation site (e.g. donor/acceptor interface)
and it may also include recombination farther away from
the dissociation site (e.g. near the electrode). The series
resistance considers the conductivity, i.e. mobility, of spe-
cific charge carriers in the respective transport medium,
where the mobility is affected by space charges and traps
or other barriers (hopping) (Jain and Kapoor, 2005a). Its
I–V characteristics could be expressed by the generalized
Shockley equation (Bube and Fahrenbruch, 1981).
0038-092X/$ - see front matter Ó 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.solener.2012.12.005

Corresponding author. Tel.: +1 (336) 727 1806.
E-mail address: carroldl@wfu.edu (D.L. Carroll).
www.elsevier.com/locate/solener
Available online at www.sciencedirect.com
Solar Energy 90 (2013) 51–57
I ¼ I
ph
À I
s
exp
qðV þ R
s

n
D
k
B
T
_ _
À1
_ _
À
V þ R
s
I
R
p
ð1Þ
where n
D
, k
B
and T are the diode ideality factor, Boltz-
mann constant, and temperature, respectively. I
s
is the re-
verse saturation current of the diode (Fahrenbruch and
Aranovich, 1979; Rand et al., 2007). I
ph
is the photocurrent
from the illumination of the sun, which could be calculated
by a transfer matrix method and finite element method (Li
et al., 2012; Koster et al., 2005).
Many methods have been proposed to extract these
parameters from I–V data (Jain and Kapoor, 2005a;
Ortiz-Conde et al., 2006; Nehaoua et al., 2009; Ouennoughi
and Chegaar, 1999; Li et al., 2005; Fred A, 1966; Ishibashi
et al., 2008; Jain and Kapoor, 2005b; Bouzidi et al., 2007),
with various levels of success of the calculation. In this
work, an evaluation will be given in to review these meth-
ods of extracting parameters. Six popular methods are
evaluated in terms of their applicability, convergence, sta-
bility, calculation speed, and error.
2. Parameter extraction methods
The fastest estimation method for series resistance and
parallel resistance is to use the reciprocals of slope of the
output curve under dark conditions at 0 V and 2 V (a shunt
resistance point of 2 times the open circuit voltage (V
oc
)
may be used as well) to find the shunt and series resistances,
respectively, as shown in Eqs. (2) and (3) (Li et al., 2005;
Fred A, 1966). It is based on the assumption that the series
resistance is small and the shunt resistance is large, i.e. the
solar cell has reasonably good properties. Furthermore, the
calculation of R
s
is only valid if a ‘good’ voltage point is
chosen for the slope calculation. In the study of organic
solar cells, especially with new materials and varying solar
cell architectures, the assumptions of low R
s
and high R
p
are not strictly valid (Williams, 2013).
R
p
¼ À
dV
dI
¸
¸
¸
¸
V¼0
ð2Þ
R
s
¼ À
dV
dI
¸
¸
¸
¸
V¼2V oc or 2V
ð3Þ
To further extract I
s
, n
D
, and J
ph
, some complicated
methods were proposed in the past years. A simple manner
in which to extract full parameters is through the use of a
nonlinear least squared error fit to Eq. (1). Unfortunately,
since Eq. (1) is a transcendental equation, it is very difficult
to find the numerical solutions. In order to circumvent this
problem, it is convenient to use the Lambert W function
described in Jain and Kapoor (2005a, 2005b). Eq. (1) is
then written as:
I ¼ À
V
R
s
þ R
p
À
n
D
V
th
R
s
Á Lambert W
R
s
I
s
R
p
RpðVþRsIsþRsI
ph
Þ
n
D
V
th
ðR
s
þR
p
Þ
_ _
n
D
V
th
ðR
s
þ R
p
Þ
_
_
_
_
þ
R
p
ðI
s
þ I
ph
Þ
R
s
þ R
p
ð4Þ
where the Lambert W function assumes I
ph
is approxi-
mately equal to short current I
sc
, and V
th
= k
B
T/q is the
thermal voltage. Based on Eq. (4), a simple and accurate
(without approximations) method using the Lambert W
function is introduced by Jain and Kapoor (2005b).
Assuming R
p
as the slope in Eq. (2), the unknown param-
eters R
s
, n
D
and I
s
are found by an iterative search method
(described in the Supplementary Material). Unfortunately,
this method is computationally intensive and susceptible to
divergence problems as well as local minima convergence
issues. Furthermore, the requirement of initial guesses in-
fers that the researcher has some knowledge regarding
the device characteristics prior to analysis, which may not
always be true (Williams, 2013).
In 2008, the Ishibashi–Kimura method gave another
iterative method to calculate the IV array in organic photo-
voltaics (OPV) (Ishibashi et al., 2008). It connects R
s
and
n
D
with all other parameters, and R
s
and n
D
are found by
fitting the data in terms of Eq. (5). However, since Eq.
(5) includes dV/dI, adjacent current data points cannot
be the same (this will lead to infinity); therefore, this
method is not suited to some I–V data with very high fill
factors (FF). In addition, some bad data with high S shape
curve (namely low FF) is hard to converge to a stable solu-
tion. Additionally, Bouzidi and Chegaar reported a
method by collecting the non-exponential current terms
that can deal with “bad” data including electrical noise
or random errors. The solution is obtained based on the
Newton functional iteration procedure (Bouzidi et al.,
2007).
À
dV
dI
¼
n
D
k
B
T=q
I
sc
À I À fV À R
s0
ðI
sc
À IÞ À n
D
k
B
T=qg=R
p
þ R
s
ð5Þ
I
ph
R
s
R
p
I
s V
I
Fig. 1. Equivalent circuit of a conventional planar solar cell. I
ph
, I
s
, R
s
,
and R
p
are photocurrent source, reverse saturation current, series
resistance and parallel resistance, respectively. I and V are the output
current and voltage of the cell, respectively.
52 Y. Li et al. / Solar Energy 90 (2013) 51–57
Apart from these iterative methods, there are some fast
calculation methods that can directly extract parameters
from I–V arrays by numerical fitting. For example, Neh-
aoua proposed a simplified equation based on the assump-
tions that R
p
R
s
and V þ R
s
I k
B
T that can solve the
series resistance and diode ideality factor of organic solar
cells, which involves a linear regression on the set of data
derived from subsets of the initial I–V output array (Neh-
aoua et al., 2009). Another method, developed by Ortiz-
Conde et al. (2006), introduces an auxiliary function to cal-
culate the parameters just from the coefficients from fitting
the auxiliary function. (These six methods are introduced
in detail in the Supplementary Material.)
3. Evaluation
A good parameters extraction method should be appli-
cable to various I–V curves. As mentioned above, some
methods are not applicable to certain data. For instance,
method 2 cannot calculate the discrete date having high
FF, i.e. dV/dI ! Infinity at V = 0. We chose six materials’
I–V curves from Ghozati et al. (1998); NREL (2011);
Todorov et al. (2010); Nie et al. (2011); Riede et al.
(2011); Roensch et al. (2011) to evaluate these extraction
methods. These materials include silicon (Ghozati et al.,
1998), GaInP/GaInAs/Ge (Roensch et al., 2011), CIGS
(NREL, 2011), CZTS (Todorov et al., 2010), polymer
(Nie et al., 2011), and small molecule (Riede et al., 2011).
Some I–V curves showed standard diode characteristics,
such as Si, but some have a lower FF, such as the polymer,
which are used to check the applicability of the six extrac-
tion methods.
Apart from applicability, there are another four aspects
used to evaluate these methods, as shown in Fig. 2; the
speed of computation on parameters extraction, conver-
gence of extraction process, the comparison between origi-
nal I–V curve and resulting I–V from extracted parameters,
and the comparison between the extracted parameters and
the extracted parameters of the next iteration. The key step
in the evaluation is to generate I–V arrays in terms of
extracted parameters. It could be obtained directly through
solving Eq. (1) after substituting the values of these param-
eters, at a given certain V. However, this method is very
slow and it is not feasible for all cases. Therefore, the Lam-
bert W function (Jain and Kapoor, 2005a, 2005b) is used
instead to produce I–V arrays faster and easier. As shown
below, set I is generated from Eq. (5) as a function of set V.
Two comparisons are mentioned in Fig. 2. The parame-
ter error is the difference between two extracted parameters
that are calculated from successive rounds, which is to indi-
cate the stability of the results. It is represented by a nor-
malized error (e
norm
) calculated from 3 parameter errors:
I
sc
error (e
jsc
), V
oc
error (e
voc
), and FF error (e

), as shown
in Eq. (6). e
norm
does not include the error of efficiency since
efficiency is the product of I
sc
, V
oc
and FF. Another com-
parison, curve error e
area
, is used to measure the accuracy
of extraction methods. As shown in Fig. 3, it is defined
as the area difference (between the original I–V curve and
the reproduced I–V curve from extracted parameters) over
the area of the original I–V array in the fourth quadrant.
e
norm
¼ ðe
2
Isc
þ e
2
voc
þ e
2
FF
Þ
1=2
ð6Þ
Fig. 2. Schematic diagram of evaluating these six parameter extraction methods. Method X means one of the six methods.
Y. Li et al. / Solar Energy 90 (2013) 51–57 53
We use “1” and “0” to represent the extracting speed of
“fast” and “slow”, respectively. The fast method refers to
finishing the calculation in one second, and the slow
method usually takes more than 10 s or more typically,
ten minutes to obtain the result, which depends on the I–
V array. Generally speaking, slow methods include some
iterative equations so that they need to spend more time
on finding a stable solution. However, the slow methods
usually have better accuracy, stability, and convergence.
Here, convergence is reached when the curve difference is
equal to zero when n approaches infinity (Eq. (7)).
lim
n!1
ðCurveArea
n
À CurveArea
nÀ1
Þ ¼ 0 ð7Þ
Finally, an objective function (Eq. (8)) is given to com-
prehensively rank different methods, where the ranking
value R is ranged from 0 to 1 indicating worst to best.
Although all five aspects mentioned above are very useful
to review an extraction method, they have different weights
on the study of solar cells. Since the calculation speed
depends on the CPU and they all could be finished in a
few minutes, it is not as important as the two evaluation
errors (e
norm
and e
area
) and application (N
applicable
). It is
therefore combined with the number of convergence (N
con-
vergence
) over two, as shown in the first term in Eq. (8). Con-
sequently, the ideal value of R should be 1 if the speed is
fast, it is convergent and applicable to all data, and the
evaluation error is zero.
R ¼ ½ðV
speed
þ N
convergence
Þ=2 þ N
applicable
þ expðÀe
norm
=100Þ þexpðÀe
area
=100ފ=4 ð8Þ
4. Result and discussion
The parameters extracted by the six methods and corre-
sponding evaluations are listed in Table 1. Methods 1–6
represent Reciprocals of slope at two points, Ishibashi–
Kimura method, Lambert W-function method, Bouzidi–
Chegaar method, Nehaoua method, and Ortiz-Conde
method, respectively. Method 1 cannot calculate the
parameters n
D
, I
s
, and I
ph
since this is not a complete
method. It therefore has no review of convergence and
errors. This method is used to rapidly and roughly estimate
the values of R
s
and R
p
, and to obtain the initial values for
some iterative methods, such as method 2. As introduced,
method 2 is incapable of dealing with data that has the
same current values at two neighboring voltages, which
mostly means high FF, since it will lead to dI/dV = Infinity
and make the kernel Eq. (5) invalid. Although there is only
one I–V curve (polymer) applicable to method 2, it shows
an excellent performance on all errors (lower than 4.5%)
and convergence among all six methods, which is consis-
tent with the report from the OPVAP system (Li, 2010).
Method 3 and 4 are another two iterative methods having
good accuracy and applicability, but still having slow cal-
culation speed due to iteration. Especially method 3, keep-
ing the second accuracy and applicability, shows a
comprehensive performance overwhelming method 4 and
method 5 for all aspects. Although methods 5 and 6 have
decent computation speed and they show fair performance
on some special I–V arrays (Ortiz-Conde et al., 2006; Neh-
aoua et al., 2009), their errors are not acceptable for the I–
V characteristics used in this study.
Generally speaking, method 2 is the best choice to
extract the parameters if the I–V array is valid, i.e. dI/
dV – 0 for all points. Usually, the I–V data of organic
solar cells is appropriate for it since their FF’s are not
too high to show an ideal diode curve (dI/dV = 0 before
threshold voltage). For some crystal solar cells with a good
diode curve, method 3 is able to find an acceptable and
convergent result. As a fast and simple calculation, method
1 might be used to estimate R
p
and R
s
for some comparison
study. Furthermore, using the objective function in Eq. (8),
five completed methods are ranked in the last column in
Table 1. The method 3 (Lambert W-function method),
method 2 (Ishibashi–Kimura method), and method 6
(Ortiz-Conde method) get the top 3 scores of 0.75, 0.64,
and 0.57, respectively.
As discussed above, each parameter in the equivalent
circuit is an aggregate involving many intrinsic physical
Fig. 3. Definition of curve error.
54 Y. Li et al. / Solar Energy 90 (2013) 51–57
Table 1
Extraction results and evaluation comparison. Method 1–6 represent reciprocals of slope at two points, Ishibashi–Kimura method, Lambert W-function method, Bouzidi–Chegaar method, Nehaoua
method and Ortiz-Conde method, respectively. Inf, ID and NA means Infinity, Indeterminate, and Not Applicable respectively. Number in I–V column indicates the I–V curve from the publication
(Ghozati et al., 1998; NREL, 2011; Todorov et al., 2010; Nie et al., 2011; Riede et al., 2011; Roensch et al., 2011).
Method IV R
p
(X) R
s
(X) n
D
I
0
(A) I
ph
(A) Speed value N
Convergence
(%) Avere
norm
Avere
area
(%) N
Applicable
Rank
1 1 Inf 1.5 NA NA ID 1 0 NA NA 0 NA
2 36.5 5.1 NA NA ID
3 63 14.3 NA NA ID
4 296.7 13.3 NA NA ID
5 32.3 1.9 NA NA ID
6 88.7 51.9 NA NA ID
2 1 Inf ID ID ID ID 0 1/1 4.5 4.4 1/6 0.64
2 36.5 ID ID ID ID
3 63 ID ID ID ID
4 296.7 3.2 5.6 2.49E-05 0.013
5 32.3 ID ID ID ID
6 88.7 ID ID ID ID
3 1 Inf 10 2 1.00E-10 0.031 0 5/5 21.6 15.2 5/6 0.75
2 1.42E + 14 1.8 1.6 7.17E-08 0.028
3 155.9 9 4.8 1.03E-11 0.017
4 341.6 9.8 3.6 6.43E-07 0.014
5 139.6 0.5 2.4 8.02E-07 0.032
6 1967.4 18.7 6.5 6.71E-07 0.012
4 1 NA NA NA NA NA 0 1/5 55.3 40.6 5/6 0.54
2 1.42E + 14 14.7 0.3 2.64E-38 0.028
3 128.8 27 32.4 8.21E-04 0.021
4 334.5 7.1 9.8 3.91E-04 0.014
5 188.9 80 14.2 3.84E-03 0.024
6 1956.8 12 11.8 5.57E-05 0.012
5 1 8.35E + 14 NA NA NA 0.031 1 1/4 1118.1 161.6 2/3 0.37
2 5.39E + 14 NA NA NA 0.028
3 741.8 2953.2 201.5 4.22E-06 0.017
4 315.8 44.5 3.9 1.92E-03 0.014
5 58.7 618.6 96.7 1.18E-04 0.032
6 5016.9 37747 1463.5 4.07E-07 0.012
6 1 7355.5 1.33E-03 1.1 4.43E-14 0.031 1 6/6 253.1 169.1 6/6 0.57
2 254.1 0.2 1.9 5.35E-11 0.029
3 804315.7 9.11E-08 1.7 2.30E-48 0.017
4 368.8 6.7 2 8.71E-18 0.014
5 9168 1.59E-03 0.4 1.70E-13 0.032
6 1670.7 1.03E + 00 23.7 1.43E-29 0.012
Y
.
L
i
e
t
a
l
.
/
S
o
l
a
r
E
n
e
r
g
y
9
0
(
2
0
1
3
)
5
1

5
7
5
5
concepts of thin films. For instance, R
s
accounts for all
voltage drops across the transport resistances of the solar
cell and its connections to a load, and even relates to mor-
phology. Therefore, there is no exact value for each param-
eter that can fully cover these many micro-phenomenon
just from a simplified model of solar cells, which can
explain why the same parameter calculated by the six meth-
ods (Table 1) varies so much. Moreover, the precision of
the measurement is another factor effecting the calculation,
especially for the methods based on the component of dV/
dI. Consequently, it should be more meaningful to use an
identical method to make the comparison of parameters
of different solar cells measured at the same conditions.
5. Summary
I–V characteristics are described by the equivalent cir-
cuit consisting of several parameters, and each parameter
is a united value quantifying many internal physical mech-
anisms, such as the series resistance R
s
that is related to the
charge carrier mobility and interface energy barrier. This
work first reviewed six current popular approaches to
extract parameters from I–V characteristics, and then gave
an evaluation to test their applicability, convergence, sta-
bility, calculation speed, and error. It turns out that
although reciprocals of slope at two points is an incomplete
method, it is a very fast and simple way to calculate the val-
ues of R
s
and R
p
, which are widely used to roughly estimate
the resistances. Generally speaking, the Ishibashi–Kimura
method shows the best accuracy (4.5% average error) but
has bad applicability (1/6), which is only applied to some
I–V curves with relatively lower FF, such as organic solar
cells. The Lambert W-function method is the best compre-
hensive method having good accuracy, applicability and
convergence, though the calculation speed is slower than
the other three methods.
It should be emphasized that there are still many other
extraction methods having various features that are not
mentioned in this paper. However, through the evaluation
given above, these un-reviewed methods could be further
tested and compared with each other in the later work.
Appendix A. Supplementary material
Supplementary data associated with this article can be
found, in the online version, at http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/
j.solener.2012.12.005.
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