Physics and chemistry of CdTe/CdS thin film heterojunction photovoltaic devices: fundamental and critical aspects
Among the armoury of photovoltaic materials, thin film heterojunction photovoltaics continue to be a promising candidate for solar energy conversion delivering a vast scope in terms of device design and fabrication. Their production does not require expensive semiconductor substrates and high temperature device processing, which allows reduced cost per unit area while maintaining reasonable efficiency. In this regard, superstrate CdTe/CdS solar cells are extensively investigated because of their suitable bandgap alignments, cost effective methods of production at large scales and stability against proton/electron irradiation. The conversion efficiencies in the range of 6–20% are achieved by structuring the device by varying the absorber/window layer thickness, junction activation/annealing steps, with more suitable front/back contacts, preparation techniques, doping with foreign ions, etc. This review focuses on fundamental and critical aspects like: (a) choice of CdS window layer and CdTe absorber layer; (b) drawbacks associated with the device including environmental problems, optical absorption losses and back contact barriers; (c) structural dynamics at CdS–CdTe interface; (d) influence of junction activation process by CdCl2 or HCF2Cl treatment; (e) interface and grain boundary passivation effects; (f) device degradation due to impurity diffusion and stress; (g) fabrication with suitable front and back contacts; (h) chemical processes occurring at various interfaces; (i) strategies and modifications developed to improve their efficiency. The complexity involved in understanding the multiple aspects of tuning the solar cell efficiency is reviewed in detail by considering the individual contribution from each component of the device. It is expected that this review article will enrich the materials aspects of CdTe/CdS devices for solar energy conversion and stimulate further innovative research interest on this intriguing topic.