Defect activation and annihilation in CIGS solar cells: an operando x-ray microscopy study

Michael E. Stuckelberger, Tara Nietzold, Bradley West, Rouin Farshchi, Dmitry Poplavskyy, Jeff Bailey, Barry Lai, Jörg M. Maser, Mariana I. Bertoni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


The efficiency of thin-film solar cells with a Cu(In1-x Gax)Se2 absorber is limited by nanoscopic inhomogeneities and defects. Traditional characterization methods are challenged by the multi-scale evaluation of the performance at defects that are buried in the device structures. Multi-modal x-ray microscopy offers a unique tool-set to probe the performance in fully assembled solar cells, and to correlate the performance with composition down to the micro- and nanoscale. We applied this approach to the mapping of temperature-dependent recombination for Cu(In1-x Gax)Se2 solar cells with different absorber grain sizes, evaluating the same areas from room temperature to 00 C. It was found that poor performing areas in the large-grain sample are correlated with a Cu-deficient phase, whereas defects in the small-grain sample are not correlated with the distribution of Cu. In both samples, classes of recombination sites were identified, where defects were activated or annihilated by temperature. More generally, the methodology of combined operando and in situ x-ray microscopy was established at the physical limit of spatial resolution given by the device itself. As proof-of-principle, the measurement of nanoscopic current generation in a solar cell is demonstrated with applied bias voltage and bias light.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number025001
JournalJPhys Energy
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2020


  • CIGS
  • Multimodal x-ray microscopy
  • Solar cell
  • X-ray beam induced current (XBIC)
  • X-ray beam induced voltage (XBIV)
  • X-ray fluorescence (XRF)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Energy
  • Materials Chemistry
  • Materials Science (miscellaneous)


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