Metrology of Al2O3 Barrier Film for Flexible CIGS Solar Cells

Mohamed Elrawemi, Liam Blunt, Leigh Fleming, Francis Sweeney, David Robbins, David Bird

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Flexible Cu (In, Ga) Se2 (CIGS) solar cells are very attractive renewable energy sources because of their high conversion efficiencies, their low cost potential and their many application possibilities. However, they are at present highly susceptible to long term environmental degradation as a result of water vapor ingress through the protective encapsulation layer to the absorber (CIGS) layer. The basic methodology to prevent the water vapor permeation is to combine an oxide layer (e.g. AlOx) coating with suitable polymer substrates. Nevertheless, micro and nano-scale defects can appear at any stage of the coating process thus affecting the module efficiency and lifespan.
The main aim of this research paper is to use surface metrology techniques including: White Light Scanning Interferometry (WLSI), Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM) and Environmental Scanning Electron Microscopy (ESEM) to characterise the aluminum oxide (Al2O3) barrier film defects, which appear to be directly responsible for the water vapor permeability. This paper reports on the development of a characterisation method for defect detection based on “Wolf Pruning” method and then correlates this with measured water vapor transmission rates (WVTRs) using standard MOCON® test. The results presented in this paper provided a detailed knowledge of the nature of micro and nano-scale defects on the Al2O3 barrier films which are responsible for water vapor and oxygen ingress. This result can then be used to provide the basis for developing roll-to-roll in process metrology devices for quality control of flexible PV module manufacture.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Journal of Energy Optimization and Engineering
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2015


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