Maximizing tandem solar cell power extraction using a three-terminal design
Tandem or multijunction solar cells can greatly increase the efficiency of solar energy conversion by absorbing different energies of the incident solar illumination in semiconductors with different band-gaps, which can operate more efficiently than a single absorber. Many different designs of tandem cells based on high efficiency top cells and Si bottom cells have been proposed, and there is ongoing debate as to whether the sub-cells should be wired in series (to create a tandem device with two terminals) or operated independently (four terminals). An alternative cell configuration that combines some of the strengths of both is a three-terminal device consisting of a top cell optically in series with a modified interdigitated back contact (IBC) Si cell featuring a conductive top contact. Such a configuration can enable improved energy yield while only requiring external wiring on the front and back of the solar cell stack. In this paper, we investigate the operation of three terminal tandems in detail using technology computer aided design (TCAD) device physics simulations. Using III–V top cells as an example case, we show how the addition of a third terminal can deliver comparable power output to a four terminal device, and substantially more power than a two-terminal device, while also enabling power injection and extraction between the two sub-circuits under a variety of spectral conditions.