METHOD AND APPARATUS FOR THE SOLUTION DEPOSITION OF OXIDE
A metal and oxygen material such as a transparent electrically conductive oxide material is electro deposited onto a substrate in a solution deposition process. Process parameters are controlled so as to result in the deposition of a high quality layer of material which is suitable for use in a back reflector structure of a high efficiency photovoltaic device The deposition may be carried out in conjunction with a masking member which operates to restrict the deposition of the metal and oxygen material to specific portions of the substrate. In particular instances the deposition may be implemented in a continuous, roll-to-roll process. Further disclosed are semiconductor devices and components of semiconductor devices made by the present process, as well as apparatus for carrying out the process.
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This invention was made, at least in part, under U.S. Government, Department of Energy, Contract No. DE-FC36-07G017053. The Government may have rights in this invention.FIELD OF THE INVENTION
This invention relates generally to the electro deposition of transparent, electrically conductive oxide materials and in particular to the deposition of transparent, electrically conductive metal oxide materials.BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
A number of electronic devices incorporate one or more layers of transparent, electrically conductive material. Such devices include, but are not limited to, semiconductor devices such as electronic memory, photovoltaic devices, photo sensors, other photo responsive devices, display devices and the like. These layers are typically fabricated from transparent, electrically conductive metal oxide (TCO) materials; and, zinc oxide based materials comprise one particular TCO material. Transparent, electrically conductive zinc oxide materials are often not stoichiometrically pure, but typically incorporate species such as suboxides, hydroxides, ionic species, dopants and the like which can function to enhance electrical conductivity of the electronic device. Therefore, within the context of this disclosure, it is to be understood that “metal and oxygen materials” are meant to include materials based thereon and may also include suboxides, hydroxides, and other species. For example, materials based on zinc and oxygen (sometimes referred to as “zinc oxide” or “zinc oxide material”) may also include suboxides of zinc, hydroxides of zinc such as Zn(OH)2, Zn2+ ions (typically in the form of zinc salts) and other such species. Likewise other metal and oxygen materials, such as tin and indium based material, may include oxides, suboxides, hydroxides and ionic species. It is also to be understood that in the context of this disclosure, the metal and oxygen materials may also include dopants or modifiers such as boron, which can function to tailor the electrical conductivity of the deposited oxide material (e.g. ZnO) layer and/or control the physical morphology of the deposited layer.
Zinc oxide materials are one metal and oxygen material which has significant utility as components of the back reflector structure of high efficiency photovoltaic devices and the present invention will be explained with reference to such materials; however, it is to be understood that the principles of this invention are applicable to the deposition of other metal and oxygen materials. The back reflector is an important component of such devices. It is disposed at the back surface of the photovoltaic device, typically as a portion of the support substrate, and functions to reflect and redirect unabsorbed photons which have passed through the overlying, photovoltaically active semiconductor layers back through those layers for reabsorption. A typical back reflector structure includes a highly reflective metal layer such as a layer of silver or aluminum having a microtextured layer of transparent, electrically conductive zinc oxide material disposed thereatop. Tie textured nature of the zinc oxide material serves to scatter the reflected photons of incident light that were not absorbed on the initial pass through the superposed solar cell material thereby allowing for their subsequent absorption in their secondary pass through said solar cell.
In order to maximize the efficiency of the photovoltaic device, the electronic, optical and physical properties of the zinc oxide material must be carefully controlled. The zinc oxide material must have good electrical conductivity, since photo current generated by the overlying semiconductor layers must pass through the zinc oxide material for collection in the subjacent substrate electrode. Hence, the electrical resistivity of the oxide material represents a parasitic loss in the photovoltaic device. Likewise, the material must have good optical transparency, since reflected photons may pass through the layer numerous times (depending upon the absorption characteristics of the semiconductor material of the photovoltaic device and the scattering characteristics of the zinc oxide and back reflector layers), and any optical absorption will also represent a loss in device efficiency. Finally, the microtexture of the layer needs to be controlled so as to optimize the scattering of the reflected photons so as to maximize the opportunity of those photons to be absorbed by the overlying semiconductor layers. Therefore, the controllable deposition of high quality zinc oxide materials is important to the preparation of high efficiency photovoltaic devices.
The prior art has generally utilized vacuum deposition processes, such as sputtering, for the deposition of zinc oxide materials. However, such processes are inherently equipment intensive and relatively slow deposition rates coupled with high capital expenditure costs and high operational expenses adversely impact the cost of producing photovoltaic devices. In addition, such deposition processes are inherently slow and represent a bottleneck in the photovoltaic device deposition process. Therefore, if high volume deposition processes are to be attempted, the back reflector fabrication stations must be extremely large and expensive.
Because of the problems associated with the vacuum deposition of such materials, the prior art has attempted to deposit zinc oxide materials by high speed, low cost electro deposition processes wherein zinc oxide materials are electroplated onto substrates in an aqueous bath. Some such processes are disclosed, for example, in U.S. Pat. Nos. 6,133,061; 6,224,736; 6,238,808; and 6,379,521. Despite various attempts, the prior art has not, heretofore, been able to reliably and repeatedly electro deposit zinc oxide materials having electrical, optical and physical properties which maximize their utility in back reflector structures of high efficiency photovoltaic devices. Furthermore, prior art processes have encountered problems of compatibility when such materials were deposited on particular substrates.
As will be explained in detail hereinbelow, the present invention provides a method and apparatus whereby high quality zinc oxide and other transparent conductive oxide materials may be electro deposited onto a variety of substrates of the type utilized in high efficiency photovoltaic devices. Furthermore, the present invention provides a method and apparatus whereby the deposition of the zinc oxide and other transparent conductive oxide materials may be limited to preselected portions of the substrate. Finally, the present invention provides a method and apparatus which is compatible with the high speed, roll-to-roll fabrication of large area, high efficiency, photovoltaic devices. These and other advantages of the present invention will be apparent from the drawings, description, and discussion which follow.BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION
The present invention is directed to a method for electro depositing a layer of a metal and oxygen material, such as a zinc and oxygen material, onto a substrate. In a first aspect of the present invention, the metal and oxygen material is electroplated onto a substrate in a process wherein a first portion of the thickness of the layer is deposited on the substrate at a first deposition rate, and thereafter a second portion of the thickness of the layer is deposited atop the first portion of the thickness at a second deposition rate which differs from the first deposition rate. In a specific instance, the second deposition rate is slower than the first deposition rate.
In another aspect of the present invention, a metal oxygen material is electro deposited onto a substrate in a process wherein at least a portion of the substrate is covered with a masking member which prevents the deposition of the metal and oxygen material onto those portions of the substrate to which it is affixed. The masking member may, in some instances, be magnetically affixable to the substrate. In specific instances, the electro deposition process is carried out on an elongated web of substrate material which is continuously advanced through a deposition system which includes a deposition station wherein the metal and oxygen material is deposited on the substrate. In this embodiment of the invention, a belt-like body of masking material is brought into contact with a back surface of the substrate member while it is in the deposition station and while the metal and oxygen material is being deposited onto the front surface of the web of substrate material. In some specific instances, the deposition system may include a biasing member such as a platen or series of rollers which urge the belt of masking material into contact with the substrate.
In yet another aspect of the present invention, the substrate member is maintained in a partiphobic orientation while the metal and oxygen material is being deposited thereonto so as to at least partially inhibit the incorporation of particulate material into the depositing layer of metal and oxygen material.
In another aspect of the present invention, a layer of metal and oxygen material is electroplated onto a substrate which is disposed in an electrolyte in a spaced apart relationship with an electrode. In this process, a power supply is operative, when energized, to establish a flow of electrical current through the electrode, the electrolyte and the substrate so as to deposit a layer of metal and oxygen material on the substrate. In this process, at least two of the following steps are implemented: inputting ultrasonic energy into the electrolyte during at least a portion of the time while the layer of metal and oxygen material is being deposited onto the substrate; periodically interrupting the flow of electrical current between the electrode, the electrolyte and the substrate while the layer of metal and oxygen material is being deposited; maintaining the substrate in a partiphobic orientation while the layer of metal and oxygen material is being deposited thereupon; bubbling a gas through the electrolyte; and energizing the power supply at a first level while a first portion of the metal and oxygen material is being deposited on the substrate so that the first portion is deposited at a first deposition rate, and thereafter energizing the power supply at a second level during the time that a second portion of the layer is being deposited atop the first portion so that the second portion is deposited at a second deposition rate. In a specific instance, the second deposition rate is less than the first deposition rate. In some particular instances, at least three of the foregoing steps are implemented. In further embodiments of this aspect of the invention, at least one more step from the following group is implemented: monitoring the composition of the electrolyte bath; monitoring the level of a dopant in the deposited metal and oxygen material; utilizing a dimensionally stable electrode; utilizing an electrode configured as a hollow basket having particles of the metal contained therein and utilizing a filter shielded electrode.
The present invention may be implemented in a continuous process, and in specific instances may be utilized to fabricate back reflector structures for high efficiency photovoltaic devices.
The present invention also includes substrates having metal and oxygen materials deposited thereupon in accord with the foregoing. The substrates of the present invention may be used as back reflector structures for photovoltaic devices. In specific instances, the present invention is directed to substrates which include a layer of a highly reflective metal such as aluminum or silver disposed thereupon and having a highly adherent metal and oxygen layer, such as a zinc and oxygen layer, electro deposited thereupon wherein these substrates are characterized in that they do not include any vacuum deposited seed layer of a metal and oxygen material thereupon so that all of the metal and oxygen material deposited upon the reflective metal is deposited from a solution in an electro deposition process in accord with the present invention.
The present invention is also directed to apparatus for carrying out the aforedescribed methods and for manufacturing the aforedescribed articles.
The present invention will be described with reference to the deposition of metal oxides such as zinc oxide materials in connection with the fabrication of back reflector strictures for high efficiency photovoltaic devices. However, it is to be understood that the principles of the present invention may be readily extended to any application wherein high quality metal oxide materials are electro deposited in a high speed, high volume process. As noted above, such applications may include the fabrication of display devices, sensor devices, light emitting devices, and the like.
Referring now to
Disposed atop the substrate 12 is a layer of transparent, electrically conductive metal oxide material, in an exemplary embodiment a zinc oxide material, 18. As noted above, this layer is primarily comprised of ZnO, but may further include other zinc based species as well as dopants and the like. The material comprising the zinc oxide layer 18 is at least partially crystalline and as such the surface of this layer may have a texture corresponding to the crystalline features of the material. In general, it is preferable that the crystalline features have a size range of approximately 200-1000 nanometers so as to maximize the scattering of visible light therefrom. The layer 18 has good electrical conductivity and good optical transparency.
Disposed atop the zinc oxide layer 18 is a body of photovoltaic semiconductor material 20. The active semiconductor layers of this body 20 operate to absorb incident photons and create carrier pairs which are collected by the electrodes of the device. As is known in the art, this body 20 may be comprised of a number of layers of semiconductor materials disposed in various configurations. In one particular embodiment, the semiconductor body 20 is comprised of hydrogenated silicon alloy materials, and as such may comprise one or more stacked triads, each triad comprised of a layer of substantially intrinsic semiconductor material interposed between p-doped and n-doped semiconductor layers.
Disposed atop the photovoltaic body 20 is a top electrode layer 22, which in the instance of this particular configuration of device, is fabricated from an optically transparent, electrically conductive material such as ZnO or another TCO material. As is known in the art, current collecting structures such as bus bars, grids and the like may be disposed upon the top electrode 22.
In the operation of the photovoltaic device, photons pass into the device through the top electrode layer 22 and are absorbed by the photovoltaic body 20 wherein they generate electron-hole pairs. The inherent, built-in electric field of the photovoltaic body 20 separates the photogenerated holes and electrons of these carrier pairs and they are collected by the respective top electrode 22 and substrate 12. Photons which are not absorbed by the photovoltaic body 20 pass through the zinc oxide layer IS and are reflected by the reflective layer 16. The textured nature of the zinc oxide layer 18 scatters the reflected photons so that their angulated path back through the photovoltaic body 20 is increased as compared to non-scattered photons. And in some embodiments, the reflective layer 16 will also include a textured configuration to also aid in scattering the reflected photons.
Referring now to
The system of
The electrode 36 and the substrate 38 are both in electrical communication with a power supply station which includes power supply 40 which in turn is controlled by a controller 42. The power supply 40 is a DC power supply, and the electrode 36 is in communication with the positive terminal of the power supply 40 and the substrate is in electrical communication with the negative terminal of the power supply 40. The illustrated embodiment of
As is further illustrated, the system 30 includes a heater 44 disposed in the tank 32. The heater 44 is operative to maintain the electrolyte 34 at a preselected temperature, and in that regard, the heater 44 has a controller 46 associated therewith. As illustrated herein, the heater 44 is an electrical resistance heater; although, other types of heater as is known in the art may be likewise utilized.
The system 30 also preferably includes a gas bubbler 48 disposed in the tank. The bubbler 48 has a gas supply 50 associated therewith and is operable, when activated, to bubble a gas, such as air or nitrogen, through the electrolyte 34, so as to keep the electrolyte stirred.
The system further includes an ultrasonic transducer 52 disposed in the tank. The transducer is energized by a controller 54 and is operative, when energized, to introduce ultrasonic energy into the electrolyte material 34. While not wishing to be bound by speculation, the inventors hereof presume that the ultrasonic energy may act to maintain the cleanliness of the surface of the deposition substrate and/or the cleanliness of the depositing layer by removing unwanted species therefrom.
The systems of the present invention may further include a monitoring station for measuring the composition of the electrolyte during the deposition process, so as to determine the concentration of metal ions, dopants and other species. Such monitoring is preferably done in situ and in real time, and assures the uniformity and consistency of the deposited materials. Monitoring may be by techniques including potentiometric techniques, chemical techniques such as EDTA titration, spectroscopic techniques and the like. Monitoring can be utilized in combination with reagent supply systems operating in a feedback mode. Thus, for example, if the metal concentration of the electrolyte is too low, additional metal can be added. Or, if the pH is too high, acid can be automatically added. Likewise, the system can control and adjust dopant reagent levels based upon measured levels in the electrolyte and/or the deposited layer.
In a typical process for the deposition of zinc oxide material in accord with the present invention, the electrolyte material 34 comprises an approximately 0.03 molar solution of Zn(NO3)2. In some embodiments, the electrolyte will also include relatively small amounts of adhesion promoting material such as ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA). Other chelating materials and/or adhesion promoters such as fumaric acid, malic acid, various other compounds having multiple functional groups, as well as compounds such as sucrose may likewise be included. Typically, the concentration of these materials is in the range of 1-200 ppm. The electrolyte material may also include one or more dopant or modifying species which operate to enhance the electrical conductivity of the deposited zinc oxide material. One specific doping species utilized in the present invention comprises boron, and it may be present in the electrolyte in the form of boric acid at a concentration in the range of 0.1%-1.0% by weight. The electrolyte is generally maintained at a temperature in the range of 50-100° C. during the deposition process, and in a typical instance, the electrolyte is maintained at a temperature of approximately 80° C.
In those instances where tin and oxygen based materials are being deposited, the electrolyte will include one or more tin salts such as tin chloride, tin acetate, tin sulfate, and the like. The deposition of indium based materials will employ an electrolyte which includes indium salts such as indium chloride, indium nitrate, indium sulfate and the like.
The power supply is activated so as to establish an electrical potential of approximately 0.5 to 20 volts between the electrode 36 and the substrate 38. This potential will cause the deposition of zinc oxide material onto the substrate, and the rate of deposition will be proportional to the power density at the substrate. Therefore, the control of deposition power will allow for the control of the deposition rate. In a typical deposition, power density at the substrate will be in the range of 0.5-20 mA/cm2.
In order to enhance the uniformity of the deposited zinc oxide, the electrolyte bath 34 is at least periodically stirred, and this may be done by use of a recirculation pump (not shown) and/or by bubbling a gas through the electrolyte from the bubbler 48. It has been found, in this process, that air or nitrogen may be employed for this purpose; however, other gases which are inert or do not otherwise degrade the deposition process may likewise be employed.
In accord with another aspect of the present invention, it has been found that the quality of the deposited zinc oxide material is improved if ultrasonic energy is at least periodically introduced into the electrolyte bath. In one embodiment, the ultrasonic transducer 52 is energized at a power level of approximately 500 watts, for example. The configuration of the ultrasonic energy system employed will depend on the configuration of the electrical device and other aspects of the electro deposition system.
In another aspect of the present invention, it has been found advantageous to operate the power supply 40 in a pulsed mode wherein the DC current applied to the electrode 36 and substrate 38 is periodically interrupted. In a typical process, the current is pulsed at a rate of 1 to 10 Hz. While not wishing to be bound by speculation, Applicant presumes that operation in the pulsed mode allows for equilibration of deposition conditions at the surface of the substrate and thereby promotes the deposition of materials having optimum compositions and morphology.
In accord with yet a further aspect of the present invention, the inventors hereof have found that very high quality deposits of zinc oxide material may be prepared in a multi-deposition rate process. In this embodiment of the present invention, the substrate is initially coated with a first layer of zinc oxide material in a relatively high rate deposition process. High rate deposition may be achieved by controlling the power supply so as to energize the electrode 36 and substrate 38 with a relatively high level of power. This produces a relatively fast deposition of a relatively thick portion of the body of zinc oxide material. Thereafter, the power supply energizes the electrode 36 and substrate 38 at a lower level of power so as to deposit zinc oxide material upon the previously deposited layer, at a lower rate. It is believed that this lower rate material manifests a very good crystalline structure which optimizes the performance of the zinc oxide layer. Use of the dual rate process thus achieves the benefits of high average deposition rate while producing a body of zinc oxide material having superior electrical, optical and physical properties. In further refinements of this process, the body may be deposited at three or more deposition rates. Also, it is to be noted that the change in deposition rate need not be abrupt, and within the context of this aspect of the invention, the deposition rate may be varied on a continuous basis, by varying current density, so that the material transitions from high rate to low rate, or from a low rate to a high rate, in a non-stepwise, or only partially stepwise manner.
In yet another aspect of the present invention, it has been found that superior quality materials are prepared when the substrate 38 is maintained in an orientation which will allow gravity to inhibit the accumulation of particulate matter thereupon. As such, the substrate 38 may be oriented vertically as is shown in
The zinc oxygen materials produced by the present invention have very good physical, optical and electronic properties which make them ideally suited for use in back reflector structures of photovoltaic devices. It is believed that this combination of properties is resultant from the independent and/or synergistic effect of at least two and perhaps more of the aforedescribed features of the present invention, namely the use of pulsed power, deposition of the material in an at least dual layered structure at differing power levels, ultrasonic cleaning of the depositing layer during the deposition process, and use of a partiphobic substrate orientation which precludes particulate inclusions. Other factors which can contribute to the quality of the materials produced by the present process include the use of in situ monitoring of electrolyte bath composition; in situ monitoring of dopant composition and profiles; and the use of electrode structures such as the hollow basket, dimensionally stable electrode and/or filter shielded electrode previously discussed. Typical layer thicknesses in back reflector structures are on the order of 0.1 to 3 microns, and the high speed nature of the deposition process of the present invention greatly enhances the economics and physical implementation of the fabrication process as compared to methods wherein the layer is entirely deposited by vacuum processes.
While the present invention provides for the high speed electrochemical deposition of zinc oxide materials, it is to be understood that in some instances, the invention may be implemented in connection with an overall fabrication process wherein some portions of the zinc oxide material may be deposited in a vacuum process such as sputtering. For example, commonly employed substrates for photovoltaic devices comprise stainless steel having a reflective coating of silver or aluminum deposited thereupon. The reflective layer is fairly thin and is often deposited by sputtering or some other vacuum process. In some instances, it has been found advantageous to vacuum deposit a relatively thin “seed” layer of zinc oxide material atop the reflective layer. This deposition is typically carried out by sputtering, and the total layer thickness is on the order of 5-100 nanometers; consequently, deposition time is relatively fast. It has been found that in some instances, the use of the vacuum deposited seed layer facilitates the deposition and adhesion of the electrochemically deposited zinc oxide material. It should be noted that the use of a seed layer is optional, and in accord with the present invention, the inventors herein have been able to electro deposit a high quality TCO material having very good adhesion properties and device operational parameters atop various reflective substrates without a seed layer, thereby reducing manufacturing costs considerably. Elimination of the seed layer is particularly important in those instances where the reflective layer is deposited by electroplating, since this allows for a total atmospheric pressure process. It has been found that the inclusion of adhesion promoters such as EDTA in the electrolyte enhances the adhesion of the electro deposited layer to the reflective metal, and thereby eliminates the need for a seed layer. In an experimental series it was found that the adhesion of zinc oxide layers directly electro deposited onto silver layers from an EDTA containing bath was at least as good as that of comparable layers of zinc oxide electro deposited onto a silver layer having a vacuum coated seed layer of zinc oxide thereupon. If the adhesion promoter is eliminated from the bath, adhesion of the zinc oxide layer is poor in the absence of the seed layer. In this experimental series, adhesion was measured by the tape lift-off method.
In one specific implementation of the present invention, the substrate is approximately 5 mils thick layer of stainless steel. In those instances where a reflective layer is to be sputtered thereatop, an approximately 100 nanometer thick adhesion layer of titanium is vacuum deposited upon the stainless steel. Subsequently, a reflective layer of silver or aluminum, having a thickness in the range of 100-500 nanometers is deposited upon the substrate. Thereafter, a seed layer of zinc oxygen material having a thickness of approximately 40 nanometers is deposited atop the reflective layer. The thus prepared substrate is coated with a layer of zinc oxide material in the process of the present invention. The thickness of this layer is generally in the range of 0.1-3 microns depending upon specific applications.
Referring now to
In the third stage of the deposition process, a further portion of the layer of zinc oxide material is deposited at a relatively low deposition rate. In particular instances, this rate is in the range of approximately 1-5 nm/sec. The deposition bath is maintained at approximately the same temperature it was in the first two stages, and agitation of the electrolyte is maintained through the use of the bubbler or other means.
Other modes of deposition may be employed. In one instance, the initial deposition may be at a low rate, followed by high rate deposition; and optionally followed by a second low rate deposition. In general, it is believed that low rate deposition promotes the formation of a layer having larger crystals which operate to promote optimum light scattering. Also, the low rate material can provide good adhesion to subjacent layers. In addition, low rate material can provide a template for subsequently deposited high rate material so that the crystalline structure of the high rate material resembles that of the low rate material to some degree.
Once the total thickness of the layer of zinc oxide material is deposited, the substrate is then rinsed with water and dried. Drying is typically carried out utilizing atmospheric air either in an oven or through the use of a blower. Drying is generally carried out at elevated temperatures, typically in the range of 25-200° C. for times of approximately 2 minutes. The drying step serves to remove water, but also allows for the at least partial conversion of zinc hydroxide species into zinc oxide species. The drying also can function to anneal the material, thereby further increasing its adherence to the substrate. In one particular instance, the drying/annealing is at 120° C. for two minutes; in another, it is at 150° C. for 1 minute. Following the drying/annealing, the process is complete, and the substrate may be subsequently processed into photovoltaic devices.
The process of the present invention may be readily implemented in a continuous, roll-to-roll process for the preparation of photovoltaic substrate material, and one such implementation is shown in
The system 60 includes three deposition stations 66, 68 and 70, although it is to be understood that in other implementations, greater or lesser numbers of deposition stations may be employed. In this particular implementation, the stations 66, 68 and 70 are configured to carry out the three stages of the deposition as described with reference to
Each of the stations includes a heater 44, and it is notable that in this embodiment, each deposition station 66, 68 and 70 includes two deposition electrodes. In this regard, the first station includes electrodes 36a, 36b, the second station includes electrodes 36c, 36d and the third includes electrodes 36e, 36f. Use of dual electrodes speeds up the deposition process. As described with reference to
As discussed above, it is frequently desirable to include a body of masking material which operates to prevent deposition of the zinc/oxygen material onto particular portions of the substrate. In the illustrated embodiment, each deposition station includes a masking system which as illustrated is comprised of two portions 72a, 72b.
Referring now to
The substrate masking system may be configured to include rollers, platens, and the like which can assist in biasing the masking member against the substrate. These biasing systems may be used in combination with a magnetically affixable masking member; although, in some instances, the biasing force may be sufficient to assure good contact between the substrate and the biasing member so that magnetic attraction need not be employed. Referring now to
Returning now to
Downstream of rinsing station 84 is a drying station 86 wherein the coated web is dried as described above. The drying station may comprise an oven, a drying tunnel, or the like and may include radiant heaters, hot air blowers or the like. Following the drying, the substrate material is then wound onto a take-up reel 88 in a take-up station 90.
The coating of the zinc and oxygen material may also be implemented into a single, continuous process in which a reflective layer is electroplated onto a stainless steel web and thereafter coated with the zinc and oxygen material. In this regard the apparatus may include a first deposition station wherein the substrate is electroplated with a reflective layer of silver or aluminum. For example, silver may be electroplated onto the stainless steel from an electrolyte bath comprising: 37.5 g/l dimethylhydantoin, 12.0 g/l silver nitrate, 0.38 g/l thiamine hydrochloride, 7.5 g/l potassium chloride and 7 g/l potassium hydroxide. Plating takes place at a temperature of 60-90° C., using a silver electrode at a current density of about 3 mA/cm2 and deposits a highly reflective silver layer at a rate of about 2 nm/sec. Aluminum may likewise be electroplated by processes known in the art.
The system of
The present invention provides a method and apparatus for the rapid, efficient deposition of high quality layers of metal oxide material, such as zinc oxide material. The invention has been described with regard to particular apparatus and particular operating conditions as specifically adapted for the preparation of substrates for high efficiency photovoltaic devices. However, it is to be understood that the principles of the present invention may be extended to other methods and apparatus and to processes for the preparation of devices and materials other than those for use in photovoltaic applications. As such, numerous modifications and variations of the invention will be apparent to those of skill in the art in view of the teaching presented herein. It is to be understood that the foregoing drawings, discussion and description are illustrative of specific embodiments of the invention, but are not meant to be limitations upon the practice thereof It is the following claims, including all equivalents, which define the scope of the invention.
1. A method for the electro deposition of a layer of a metal and oxygen material on a substrate, said method comprising the steps of:
- providing a substrate;
- providing deposition apparatus including: a tank; a volume of electrolyte material disposed in said tank; an electrode station disposed in said tank, said electrode station including at least one electrode which is in contact with said electrolyte material, said at least one electrode at least partially comprised of a metal; a substrate support for spacedly retaining at least a portion of the substrate from the at least one electrode; and a power supply in electrical communication with said electrode station;
- retaining said substrate in operative communication with the support so that at least a portion of the substrate is in a spaced apart relationship with said at least one electrode and so that electrolyte material is disposed therebetween;
- establishing electrical communication between said power supply, said at least one electrode, said electrolyte material and said substrate so that the power supply, when energized, will establish a flow of electrical current between the at least one electrode, the electrolyte material and the substrate, which current flow electro deposits a material which includes said metal and oxygen on the substrate;
- operating the power supply at a first level so as to establish a flow of electrical current, of a first magnitude, between said substrate, the electrolyte and at least one portion of said at least one electrode so as to deposit said metal and oxygen material on said substrate at a first deposition rate;
- continuing to operate said power supply at said first level so as to deposit a first layer of said metal and oxygen material onto said substrate at said first deposition rate, said first layer having a first thickness; and thereafter,
- operating said power supply at a second level so as to establish a flow of electrical current of a second magnitude between said substrate, said electrolyte material and at least one portion of said at least one electrode so as to deposit a layer of said metal and oxygen material at a second deposition rate which is less than said first deposition rate, and
- continuing to operate said power supply at said second level so as to deposit a second layer of said metal and oxygen material having a second thickness onto the first layer of said metal and oxygen material having said first thickness.
2. The method of claim 1, including the further step of periodically interrupting the flow of electrical current during the time that said first layer of metal and oxygen material and/or said second layer of said metal and oxygen material is being deposited.
3. The method of claim 1, including the step of inputting ultrasonic energy to said electrolyte material during or following the deposition of at least a portion of said first or second layers of metal and oxygen material.
4. The method of claim 1, including the further step of bubbling a gas through said electrolyte material during at least a portion of the deposition of the metal and oxygen material.
5. The method of claim 1, wherein said substrate is maintained in a partiphobic orientation while at least one of said first and second layers of metal and oxygen material is being deposited thereupon.
6. The method of claim 1, wherein said metal is zinc and said metal and oxygen material is a zinc and oxygen material.
7. The method of claim 6, wherein said electrolyte material comprises an aqueous solution of Zn(NO3)2.
8. The method of claim 7, wherein the concentration of Zn(NO3)2 is approximately 0.03 M.
9. The method of claim 7, wherein said electrolyte material further includes a boron containing species.
10. The method of claim 7, wherein said electrolyte material further includes a member selected from the group consisting of: EDTA, sucrose, a dicarboxylic acid, and combinations thereof.
11. The method of claim 1, wherein said electrolyte material is maintained at a temperature of at least 50° C.
12. The method of claim 1, wherein said zinc and oxygen material comprises ZnO.
13. The method of claim 6, wherein said zinc and oxygen material comprises a member selected from the group consisting of: ZnO; clusters of ZnO; Zn 2+ ions; Zn (OH)2 and combinations thereof.
14. The method of claim 1, wherein said electrode station includes at least a first electrode and a second electrode; and wherein, said power supply is operated at said first level so as to establish said flow of electrical current of said first level between said substrate, said electrode material and said first electrode, and said power supply is operated at said second level so as to establish said flow of electrical current of said second level between said substrate, said electrode material and at said second electrode.
15. The method of claim 1, wherein the substrate comprises an elongated web, and wherein said deposition apparatus includes a web transport system, which is operative in combination with the substrate support to continuously advance the substrate through the tank while said metal and oxygen material is being deposited thereupon.
16. The method of claim 1, wherein said substrate is metallic.
17. The method of claim 1, wherein said substrate comprises a metal selected from the group consisting of steel, stainless steel, silver, aluminum, nickel, gold, chromium and combinations thereof.
18. The method of claim 1, wherein said substrate comprises a metallic member having a layer of ZnO electro deposited upon at least a portion thereof.
19. The method of claim 1, including the further steps of:
- affixing a masking member onto a portion of the substrate prior to the deposition of any of said metal and oxygen material thereunto, and
- removing said masking member from said substrate after said metal and oxygen material has been deposited thereunto; whereby said masking member prevents the deposition of said metal and oxygen material onto masked portions of said substrate.
20. The method of claim 19, wherein said substrate is ferrous and said masking member is magnetically affixable thereto.
21. In a method for the electroplating of a layer of a metal and oxygen material onto a substrate wherein said substrate is disposed in an electrolyte in a spaced apart relationship with an electrode, and wherein a power supply is operative, when energized, to establish a flow of electrical current through said electrode, said electrolyte, and said substrate so as to deposit a layer of said metal and oxygen material on said substrate, characterized in that:
- energizing said power supply at a first level during the time that a first portion of said metal and oxygen material is electroplated onto said substrate so that said first portion is deposited at a first deposition rate and thereafter energizing said power supply at a second level during the time that a second portion of said layer is electroplated atop said first portion wherein said second level of power is selected so that the deposition rate of said second portion is less than the deposition rate of said first portion.
Filed: Feb 11, 2009
Publication Date: Aug 12, 2010
Applicant: United Solar Ovonic LLC (Auburn Hills, MI)
Inventors: Shengzhong Liu (Rochester Hills, MI), Chaolan Hu (Rochester Hills, MI), Yanhua Zhou (Rochester Hills, MI), Arindam Banerjee (Bloomfield Hills, MI), Jeffrey Yang (Troy, MI), Subhendu Guha (Bloomfield Hills, MI)
Application Number: 12/369,022
International Classification: C25D 5/10 (20060101);