Fabrication of silicon nanowires by electroless etching and investigation of their photovoltaic applications

Thesis Type: Postgraduate

Institution Of The Thesis: Middle East Technical University, Turkey

Approval Date: 2011

Thesis Language: English

Student: Barış Özdemir



Silicon is the most important semiconducting material for optoelectronics owing to its suitable and tunable physical properties. Even though there are several alternatives, silicon based solar cells are still the most widely produced and commercially feasible system. Extensive efforts have been spent in order to increase the efficiency and decrease the cost of these systems. The studies that do not focus on replacement of the semiconducting material, mostly concentrate on the developments that could be brought by nanotechnological approaches. In this aspect, utilization of silicon nanowires has been predicted to improve the efficiency of the silicon based solar cell technology. Moreover, besides solar cells, silicon nanowires have been investigated for many other electronic systems such as thermoelectrics, light emitting diodes, biological/chemical sensors, photodetectors and lithium ion v batteries. Therefore, production of silicon nanowires through a cost-effective and well controlled method could make important contributions to many fields. In this thesis, electroless etching method, which is a novel and solution based method enabling vertically aligned silicon nanowire array fabrication over large areas, is investigated. A detailed parametric study resulting in a full control over the resultant nanowire morphology is provided. The parameters affecting the structure have been determined as etching time, solution temperature, solution concentration, pressure and starting wafer characteristics. The results show that electroless etching method could replace the conventional silicon nanowire fabrication methods. It was shown that specific nanowire lengths for any application, can be obtained simply by adjusting the parameters of electroless etching system. One of the most crucial features of vertically aligned silicon nanowire arrays is their remarkable antireflective properties. The optical reflectivity measurements showed that 42% reflectivity of pristine polished silicon wafer decreases down to 1% following fabrication of silicon nanowire arrays on their surface. This unique characteristic reveals that these nanowires could be used as antireflective surfaces in solar cells. Moreover, it was determined that p-n heterojunctions that are formed by silicon nanowires, namely radial heterojunctions, would yield higher efficiencies compared to planar heterojunctions because of the dramatic increase in the charge carrier collection efficiency and orthogonal photon absorption. On this subject, n-type silicon nanowire arrays were fabricated by electroless etching followed by drop casting Poly(3,4-ethylenedioxythiophene)poly(styrenesulfonate) (PEDOT:PSS) organic layer on these nanowires as the complementary layer, forming the radial heterojunction. The energy conversion efficiency of silicon nanowire / PEDOT: PSS device was found as 5.30%, while planar silicon / PEDOT: PSS control device displayed only 0.62% efficiency. Developments and optimizations in both the electroless etching method and solar cell models could lead to important developments in photovoltaic industry.