Elrawemi, Mohamed (2015) Metrology and Characterisation of Defects in Thin-Film Barrier Layers Employed in Flexible Photovoltaic Modules. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

Flexible thin-film photovoltaic (PV) modules based on copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS) materials are one of the most recent developments in the renewable energy field, and the latest films have efficiencies at or beyond the level of Si-based rigid PV modules. Whilst these films offer significant advantages in terms of mass and the possibility of building-integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) applications, they are at present highly susceptible to long term environmental degradation as a result of water vapour transmission through the protective encapsulation layer to the active (absorber) layer. To maintain the PV module flexibility and to reduce or eliminate the water vapour permeability, the PV encapsulation includes a barrier layer of amorphous aluminium oxide (Al2O3) material of a few nanometres thickness deposited on a planarised polyethylene naphthalate (PEN) substrate. The highly conformal barrier layer of the Al2O3 is produced by atomic layer deposition (ALD) methods using roll-to-roll (R2R) technology. Nevertheless, water vapour permeation is still facilitated by the presence of micro and nano-scale defects generated during the deposition processes of the barrier material, which results in decreased cell efficiency and reduced unit longevity.
The state of the art surface metrology technologies including: optical microscopy, white light scanning interferometry (WLSI), atomic force microscopy (AFM) and scanning electron microscopy (SEM) were extensively deployed in this project as offline surface characterisation methods to characterise the water vapour barrier layer defects, which are postulated to be directly responsible for the water vapour ingress. Areal surface texture parameters analysis based on wolf pruning, area pruning and segmentation analysis methods as defined in ISO 25178-2; allow the efficient separation of small insignificant defects from significant defects. The presence of both large and small defects is then correlated with the barrier films functionality as measured on typical sets of Al2O3 ALD films using a standard MOCON® (quantitative gas permeation) test. The investigation results of the initial analysis finishes by drawing conclusions based on the analysis of the water vapour transmission rate (WVTR), defects size, density and distribution, where it is confirmed that small numbers of large defects have more influence on the deterioration of the barrier films functionality than large numbers of small defects. This result was then used to provide the basis for developing a roll-to-roll in process metrology device for quality control of flexible PV barrier films.
Furthermore, a theoretical model approach was developed in this thesis based on the water vapour diffusion theory to determine the cut- off level between large significant defects and small insignificant defects. The results of the model would seem to reveal that, in order to build up in process, non-contact optical defect detection system for R2R barrier films, the critical spatial resolution required for defect detection need not be less than 3 μm laterally and 3Sq nm (Sq= root mean square surface roughness deviation of non-defective sample area) per field of view (FOV) vertically. Any defect that has dimensions less than this appears to have a significantly lower effect on the PV barrier properties and functionality.
In this study, the surface topography analysis results and the theoretical model approach outcomes, both provide the basis for developing a R2R in process metrology device for PV barrier films defect detection. Eventually, the work in this thesis reports on the deployment of new (novel) in-line interferometric optical sensors based on wavelength scanning interferometry (WSI) designed to measure and catalogue the PV barrier films defects where they are present. The sensors have built-in environmental vibration compensation and are being deployed on a demonstrator system at a R2R production facility in the UK.

Final thesis - ELRAWEMI.pdf - Accepted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.

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