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Performance characterisation of photovoltaic devices: managing the effects of high capacitance and metastability

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posted on 22.11.2016, 14:25 authored by Alexander Eeles
It is essential to make performance measurements of photovoltaics modules in order to quantify the power they will produce under operational conditions. Performance measurements are fundamental throughout the photovoltaic industry, from product development to quality control in manufacturing and installation in the field. Rapid and economic evaluation of photovoltaic performance requires measurements using pulsed illumination solar simulators. However some devices have characteristics which can cause difficulties making these measurements. The aim of this thesis is to overcome these measurement problems focusing particularly on two of the most prevalent and pressing of these problematic characteristics: high capacitance and metastability. A new method for measuring high capacitance modules in a pulsed simulator, based on tailor made voltage ramps, was developed. The voltage ramp is tailor made such that the measurement time is minimised while maintaining high accuracy (0.5 %), allowing the measurement of high capacitance modules in a single 10ms illumination pulse. The necessary inputs for this method are the capacitance and dark current as a function of voltage for each module. In order to make these measurements, at the high forward bias voltages required, a new system was developed. The tailored voltage ramp can be created individually for each module, since the process is rapid an automatic. This makes the method applicable to a production line or to test house measurements. In addition to their use as inputs for the voltage ramp design, the capacitance and dark current also contain other valuable information, including effective minority carrier lifetime. In several thin film technologies, such as CIGS, the efficiency is not a fixed value, rather the module is metastable and the efficiency changes depending on the previous exposure /preconditioning of the device. Preconditioning is normally applied to these devices before measurement in order to put them in a specific state that is repeatable and representative of outdoor operation. Improved preconditioning practices are vital for performance measurements in CIGS modules. Therefore the preconditioning behaviour of a variety of CIGS modules from different manufacturers was investigated. The effect of preconditioning varied for different modules, commonly the fill factor improved substantially, but often changes in open circuit voltage were also seen and in some cases also substantial changes in short circuit current. The rates of preconditioning and relaxation were found to follow stretched exponential behaviour, such that the changes occur linearly on a logarithmic timescale over several orders of magnitude in time. The total time for performance stabilisation was found to vary significantly between different types of module. Because of this stretched exponential behaviour, even though the module took days to fully relax to the dark state, there was significant relaxation within the tens of minutes that it would normally take a module to cool down after light soaking before it could be measured. The major implication of observed kinetics is that in order to achieve repeatable measurement the timing in each element of a preconditioning routine should be controlled such that the fractional error in the duration of each step is small. During the investigation an unexpectedly short timescale preconditioning effect was observed, which occurs on a millisecond timescale and relaxes in seconds. It was shown that the measurement artefacts introduced using this method can be eliminated by using electrical forward bias until immediately before the measurement. Another measurement system was developed to track the dark current and C-V characteristic of the modules during electrical bias preconditioning and subsequent relaxation. These measurements demonstrate that more than one process involved during preconditioning in CIGS. Changes occur both in the doping in the bulk of the absorber and also in charge accumulation occurring near to the absorber / buffer interface. The theoretical models for preconditioning in CIGS were reviewed and compared to the experimental results. A rate model was developed based on the theory of the metastable VSe-VCu defect. This model was shown to correspond well to the rates of preconditioning and relaxation in CIGS. The non-exponential behaviour was shown to be compatible with a distribution of activation energies for the transition between different defect states. The difference in the time taken for modules to stabilise is explained by differences in doping density and the density of VSe-VCu defects. The work presented facilitates more accurate, economical performance measurements for high capacitance devices and CIGS devices, thereby contributing to the large scale implementation of photovoltaics as power source.





  • Mechanical, Electrical and Manufacturing Engineering


© Alexander Eeles

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This work is made available according to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) licence. Full details of this licence are available at:

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.