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Silicon Nanowires for Photvoltaic Applications

Parlevliet, David (2008) Silicon Nanowires for Photvoltaic Applications. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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Silicon nanowires are a nanostructure consisting of elongated crystals of silicon. Like many nanostructures, silicon nanowires have properties that change with size. In particular, silicon nanowires have a band-gap that is tuneable with the diameter of the nanowire. They tend to absorb a large portion of the light incident upon them and they form a highly textured surface when grown on an otherwise flat substrate. These properties indicate silicon nanowires are good candidates for use in solar cells.

Nanostructured silicon, in the form of nanocrystalline silicon, has been used to produce thin film solar cells. Solar cells produced using silicon nanowires could combine the properties of the silicon nanowires with the low material costs and good stability of nanocrystalline based solar cells.

This thesis describes the process of optimisation of silicon nanowire growth on a plasma enhanced chemical vapour deposition system. This optimised growth of silicon nanowires is then used to demonstrate a prototype solar cell using silicon nanowires and amorphous silicon. Several steps had to be accomplished to reach this goal.

The growth of silicon nanowires was optimised through a number of steps to produce a high density film covering a substrate. Developments were made to the standard deposition technique and it was found that by using pulsed plasma enhanced chemical vapour deposition the density of nanowire growth could be improved. Of a range of catalysts trialled, gold and tin were found to be the most effective catalysts for the growth of silicon nanowires. A range of substrates was investigated and the nanowires were found to grow with high density on transparent conductive oxide coated glass substrates, which would allow light to reach the nanowires when they were used as part of a solar cell. The silicon nanowires were combined with doped and intrinsic amorphous silicon layers with the aim to create thin film photovoltaic devices. Several device designs using silicon nanowires were investigated. The variant that showed the highest efficiency used doped silicon nanowires as a p-layer which was coated with intrinsic and n-type amorphous silicon.

By the characterisation and optimisation of the silicon nanowires, a prototype silicon nanowire solar cell was produced. The analysis of these prototype thin film devices, and the nanowires themselves, indicated that silicon nanowires are a promising material for photovoltaic applications.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Engineering and Energy
Supervisor(s): Cornish, John and Jennings, Philip
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