Formation of silicon nanocrystals in silicon carbide using flash lamp annealing
During the formation of Si nanocrystals (Si NC) in SixC1−x layers via solid-phase crystallization, the unintended formation of nanocrystalline SiC reduces the minority carrier lifetime and therefore the performance of SixC1−x as an absorber layer in solar cells. A significant reduction in the annealing time may suppress the crystallization of the SiC matrix while maintaining the formation of Si NC. In this study, we investigated the crystallization of stoichiometric SiC and Si-rich SiC using conventional rapid thermal annealing (RTA) and nonequilibrium millisecond range flash lamp annealing (FLA). The investigated SixC1−x films were prepared by plasma-enhanced chemical vapor deposition and annealed at temperatures from 700 °C to 1100 °C for RTA and at flash energies between 34 J/cm2 and 62 J/cm2 for FLA. Grazing incidence X-ray diffraction and Fourier transformed infrared spectroscopy were conducted to investigate hydrogen effusion, Si and SiC NC growth, and SiC crystallinity. Both the Si content and the choice of the annealing process affect the crystallization behavior. It is shown that under certain conditions, FLA can be successfully utilized for the formation of Si NC in a SiC matrix, which closely resembles Si NC in a SiC matrix achieved by RTA. The samples must have excess Si, and the flash energy should not exceed 40 J/cm2 and 47 J/cm2 for Si0.63C0.37 and Si0.77C0.23 samples, respectively. Under these conditions, FLA succeeds in producing Si NC of a given size in less crystalline SiC than RTA does. This result is discussed in terms of nucleation and crystal growth using classical crystallization theory. For FLA and RTA samples, an opposite relationship between NC size and Si content was observed and attributed either to the dependence of H effusion on Si content or to the optical absorption properties of the materials, which also depend on the Si content.