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Nanoscale Imaging of Photocurrent and Efficiency in CdTe Solar Cells



Leite Marina, maxim abashin, Henri Lezec, anthony gianfrancesco, Alec Talin, Nikolai Zhitenev


The local collection characteristics of grain interiors and grain boundaries in thin film CdTe polycrystalline solar cells are investigated using scanning photocurrent microscopy. The carriers are locally generated by light injected through a small aperture (50-300 nm) of a near-field scanning optical microscope in an illumination mode. Possible influence of rough 2 surface topography on light coupling is examined and eliminated by sculpting smooth wedges on the granular CdTe surface. By varying the wavelength of light, nanoscale spatial variations in external quantum efficiency were mapped. We find that the grain boundaries (GBs) are better current collectors than the grain interiors (GIs). The increased collection efficiency is caused by two distinct effects associated with the material composition of GBs. First, GBs are charged, and the corresponding built-in field facilitates the separation and the extraction of the photogenerated carriers. Second, the GB regions generate more photocurrent at long wavelength corresponding to the band edge, which can be caused by a smaller local band gap. Resolving carrier collection with nanoscale resolution in solar cell materials is crucial for optimizing the polycrystalline device performance through appropriate thermal processing and passivation of defect and surfaces.
ACS Nano


photovoltaics, scanning photocurrent microscopy, solar cells, CdTe, NSOM


Marina, L. , abashin, M. , Lezec, H. , gianfrancesco, A. , Talin, A. and Zhitenev, N. (2014), Nanoscale Imaging of Photocurrent and Efficiency in CdTe Solar Cells, ACS Nano, [online],, (Accessed April 15, 2024)
Created October 14, 2014, Updated October 12, 2021