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Nitrogen-Mediated Growth of Silver Nanocrystals to Form UltraThin, High-Purity Silver-Film Electrodes with Broad band Transparency for Solar Cells

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journal contribution
posted on 31.10.2018, 00:00 by Guoqing Zhao, Wenfei Shen, Eunwook Jeong, Sang-Geul Lee, Hee-Suk Chung, Tae-Sung Bae, Jong-Seong Bae, Gun-Hwan Lee, Jianguo Tang, Jungheum Yun
Controlling the shape and crystallography of nanocrystals during the early growth stages of a noble metal layer is important because of its correlation with the final layer morphology and optoelectrical features, but this task is unattainable in vapor deposition processes dominated by artificially uncontrollable thermodynamic free energies. We report on experimental evidence for the controllable evolution of Ag nanocrystals as induced by the addition of nitrogen, presumed to be nonresidual in the Ag lattice given its strong float-out behavior. This atypical formation of energetically stable Ag nanocrystals with significantly improved wetting abilities on a chemically heterogeneous substrate promotes the development of an atomically flat, ultrathin, high-purity Ag layer with a thickness of only 5 nm. This facilitates the fabrication of Ag thin-film electrodes exhibiting highly enhanced optical transparency over a broad spectral range in the visible and near-infrared spectral range. An Ag thin-film electrode with a ZnO/Ag/ZnO configuration exhibits an average transmittance of about 95% in the spectral range of 400–800 nm with a maximum transmittance of over 98% at 580 nm, which is comparable with the best transparency values so far reported for transparent electrodes. This degree of optical transparency provides an excellent chance to improve the photon absorption of photovoltaic devices employing an Ag thin film as their window electrode. This is clearly confirmed by the superior performance of a flexible organic solar cell with a power conversion efficiency of 8.0%, which is far superior to that of the same solar cell using a conventional amorphous indium tin oxide electrode (6.4%).