A new solar-cell structure utilizes a single, ultra-wide well of either gallium arsenide (GaAs) or indium-galliumphosphide (InGaP) in the depletion region of a wide bandgap matrix, instead of the usual multiple quantum well layers. These InGaP barrier layers are effective at reducing diode dark current, and photogenerated carrier escape is maximized by the proper design of the electric field and barrier profile. With the new material, open-circuit voltage enhancements of 40 and 100 mV (versus PIN control systems) are possible without any degradation in short-circuit current.

Basic tenets of quantum-well and quantum-dot solar cells are utilized, but instead of using multiple thin layers, a single wide well works better. InGaP is used as a barrier material, which increases open current, while simultaneously lowering dark current, reducing both hole diffusion from the base, and space charge recombination within the depletion region. Both the built-in field and the barrier profile are tailored to enhance thermionic emissions, which maximizes the photocurrent at forward bias, with a demonstrated voltage increase.

An InGaP heterojunction barrier solar cell consists of a single, ultra-wide GaAs, aluminum-gallium-arsenide (AlGaAs), or lower-energy-gap InGaP absorber well placed within the depletion region of an otherwise wide bandgap PIN diode. Photogenerated electron collection is unencumbered in this structure. InGaAs wells can be added to the thick GaAs absorber layer to capture lower-energy photons.

This work was done by Roger E. Welser of Kopin Corporation for Glenn Research Center. For more information, download the Technical Support Package (free white paper) at www.techbriefs.com/tsp under the Materials category.

Inquiries concerning rights for the commercial use of this invention should be addressed to

NASA Glenn Research Center
Innovative Partnerships Office
Attn: Steve Fedor
Mail Stop 4–8
21000 Brookpark Road
Ohio 44135.

Refer to LEW-18393-1

NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the October, 2010 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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