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**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

IÞ

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

ﬀ

), 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

=100Þ=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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