Passivating contacts and tandem concepts: Approaches for the highest silicon-based solar cell efficiencies
The efficiency of photovoltaic energy conversion is a decisive factor for low-cost electricity from renewable energies. In recent years, the efficiency of crystalline silicon solar cells in mass production has increased annually by about 0.5-0.6%abs per year. In order to maintain this development speed, new technologies must be developed and transferred to industrial production. After the transition from full area Al back surface field cells to passivated emitter and rear contact cells, passivating contacts are an important step to get as close as possible to the efficiency limit of single junction Si solar cells. The theoretical background and the two prominent technologies for passivating contacts are presented and discussed. After implementing passivating contacts, the fundamental limit of single junction Si solar cells of 29.4% is in reach. Multi-junction solar cells are the most promising option to achieve efficiencies greater than 30%. Tandem technologies based on crystalline silicon as bottom cells have the advantage that they are based on a mature technology established on a gigawatt scale and can partially use the existing production capacity. In addition, silicon has an ideal bandgap for the lower subcell of a tandem solar cell. The two most promising material candidates for the top cell, i.e., III/V and perovskites, will be discussed. The presented technology routes show that silicon is able to maintain its outstanding position in photovoltaics in the coming years.