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Two-Dimensional Cadmium Chloride Nanosheets in Cadmium Telluride Solar Cells

Perkins, Craig L., Beall, Carolyn, Reese, Matthew O., Barnes, Teresa M.
ACS applied materials 2017 v.9 no.24 pp. 20561-20565
X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, cadmium, cadmium chloride, chemistry, chlorine, nanosheets, oxides, photovoltaic cells
In this study we make use of a liquid nitrogen-based thermomechanical cleavage technique and a surface analysis cluster tool to probe in detail the tin oxide/emitter interface at the front of completed CdTe solar cells. We show that this thermomechanical cleavage occurs within a few angstroms of the SnO₂/emitter interface. An unexpectedly high concentration of chlorine at this interface, ∼20%, was determined from a calculation that assumed a uniform chlorine distribution. Angle-resolved X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy was used to further probe the structure of the chlorine-containing layer, revealing that both sides of the cleave location are covered by one-third of a unit cell of pure CdCl₂, a thickness corresponding to about one Cl–Cd–Cl molecular layer. We interpret this result in the context of CdCl₂ being a true layered material similar to transition-metal dichalcogenides. Exposing cleaved surfaces to water shows that this Cl–Cd–Cl trilayer is soluble, raising questions pertinent to cell reliability. Our work provides new and unanticipated details about the structure and chemistry of front surface interfaces and should prove important to improving materials, processes, and reliability of next-generation CdTe-based solar cells.