Fast determination of impurities in metallurgical grade silicon for photovoltaics by instrumental neutron activation analysis
Standard wafer solar cells are made of near-semiconductor quality silicon. This high quality material makes up a significant part of the total costs of a solar module. Therefore, new concepts with less expensive so called solar grade silicon directly based on physiochemically upgraded metallurgical grade silicon are investigated. Metallurgical grade silicon contains large amounts of impurities, mainly transition metals like Fe, Cr, Mn, and Co, which degrade the minority carrier lifetime and thus the solar cell efficiency. A major reduction of the transition metal content occurs during the unidirectional crystallization due to the low segregation coefficient between the solid and liquid phase. A further reduction of the impurity level has to be done by gettering procedures applied to the silicon wafers. The efficiency of such cleaning procedures of metallurgical grade silicon is studied by instrumental neutron activation analysis (INAA). Small sized silicon wafers of app roximately 200. mg with and without gettering step were analyzed. To accelerate the detection of transition metals in a crystallized silicon ingot, experiments of scanning whole vertical silicon columns with a diameter of approximately 1. cm by gamma spectroscopy were carried out. It was demonstrated that impurity profiles can be obtained in a comparably short time. Relatively constant transition metal ratios were found throughout an entire silicon ingot. This led to the conclusion that the determination of several metal profiles might be possible by the detection of only one "leading element". As the determination of Mn in silicon can be done quite fast compared to elements like Fe, Cr, and Co, it could be used as a rough marker for the overall metal concentration level. Thus, a fast way to determine impurities in photovoltaic silicon material is demonstrated.