A polycrystalline silicon (pc-Si) thin film with large grains on a low-cost non-Si substrate is a promising material for thin-film solar cells. One possibility to grow such a pc-Si layer is by aluminum-induced crystallization (AIC) followed by epitaxial thickening. The best cell efficiency we have achieved so far with such an AIC approach is 8%. The main factor that limits the efficiency of our pc-Si solar cells at present is the presence of many intra-grain defects. These intra-grain defects originate within the AIC seed layer. The defect density of the layers can be determined by chemical defect etching. This technique is well suited for our epitaxial layers but relatively hard to execute directly on the seed layers. This paper presents a way to reveal the defects present in thin and highly-aluminum-doped AIC seed layers by using defect etching. We used diluted Schimmel and diluted Wright etching solutions. SEM pictures show the presence of intra-grain defects and grain boundaries in seed layers after defect etching, as verified by EBSD analyses. The SEM images of diluted Wright etched pc-Si seed layer shows that grain boundaries become much better visible than with diluted Schimmel etch.
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Venkatachalam, S., Gestel, D.V., Gordon, I. et al. Defect study of polycrystalline–silicon seed layers made by aluminum-induced crystallization. MRS Online Proceedings Library 1153, 1602 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1557/PROC-1153-A16-02