NREL: Defects can improve solar cell performance

Deep-level defects are usually seen as a problem for solar PV cells, however new research by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratories (NREL) suggest that certain defects can improve PV cell performance.

In an article published in journal Applied Physics Letters, NREL Researchers have shown how defects in thin tunneling silicon oxide layers or aluminum oxide surface passivation layers can be beneficial.

NREL’s theoretical research suggests that defects with “properly engineered energy levels” can improve carrier collection out of the cell, or improve surface passivation of the absorber layer.

Simulations where certain atoms in these oxide layers were substituted in these layers were conducted using NREL’s supercomputer and the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center.

The research was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Sunshot Initiative, as part of a joint project by Georgia Institute of Technology, Germany’s Fraunhofer ISE and NREL.

NREL notes that more research is needed in order to determine which defects will produce the best results, and notes that the principles applied in the study could be applied to other materials and devices.