Computational materials discovery: Ab initio modelling of new, high-performance semiconductors for top cells in multi-junction tandems on silicon solar cells

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Copyright: Al-Farsi, Mohammed Said Saleh
Multijunction solar cells based on silicon are predicted to achieve an efficiency of 40-45% for a top cell with a band gap of 1.6-1.9 eV. However, there are currently no known materials with suitable band gaps able to deliver high efficiencies. Two classes of materials that have been proposed for top cells are alloys of CuGaSe2 and alloyed oxide perovskites. CuGaSe2 has a suitable band gap (1.68 eV) for a top cell on silicon, but the maximum efficiency achieved is only 11%, while that of the closely-related CuInGaSe2 (band gap 1.14 eV) is 23.35%. The low efficiency of CuGaSe2 has been attributed to anti-site defects. Therefore, suppressing this defect formation is critical to achieving higher efficiencies. On the other hand, most oxide perovskites have band gaps that are too high (>2 eV) to be used as top cells on silicon, hence strategies such as alloying are required to lower their band gaps. In this work, the effects of alloying CuGaSe2 with Ag, Na, K, Al, In, La and S were investigated using Density Functional Theory (DFT) calculations. The band gaps of the alloyed compounds and formation energies of anti-site defects were calculated to find alloying elements that can increase the defect formation energy but maintain the band gap. CuGaSe2 alloyed with Al at 50at% showed the highest increase (compared to unalloyed CuGaSe2) in the defect formation energy (by ~0.20 eV) followed by Na (~0.15 eV) and S (~0.10 eV), both at 50at%. However, the band gap of the Al alloy (~2.15 eV) is too high for a top cell, while those of Na (~1.95 eV) and S (~1.91 eV) are slightly above the upper limit. Thus, alloying with these elements is not an ideal route towards significantly increasing the formation energy of anti-site defects while maintaining the band gap of CuGaSe2. However, some of the factors that influence the defect formation energy are identified, potentially leading to design rules for future work. Defect formation energies were found to be higher in structures with more positively charged Ga and negatively charged Se atoms. Analysis of bond lengths revealed a positive correlation between shorter Ga and Se bonds and higher defect formation energies. Band gaps of various alloyed oxide perovskites were calculated using DFT. BiFeO3 was alloyed with Y and Sb; LaFeO3 with Cr and Sb and YFeO3 with Bi and Sb. YFeO3 alloyed with Sb at 50at%, was found to have a band gap of 1.4-2.1 eV (depending on the basis set used) which is in the range for a top cell.
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