Techniques for the production of multicrystalline silicon are more simple, and therefore cheaper, than those required for single crystal material. However, the material quality of multicrystalline material is lower than that of single crystalline material due to the presence of grain boundaries. Grain boundaries introduce high localised regions of recombination due to the introduction of extra defect energy levels into the band gap, thus reducing the overall minority carrier lifetime from the material. In addition, grain boundaries reduce solar cell performance by blocking carrier flows and providing shunting paths for current flow across the p-n junction.
To avoid significant recombination losses at grain boundaries, grain sizes on the order of at least a few millimetres are required 1. This also allows single grains to extend from front to back of the cell, providing less resistance to carrier flow and generally decreasing the length of grain boundaries per unit of cell. Such multicrystalline material is widely used for commercial solar cell production.
- 1. , «Electronic processes at grain boundaries in polycrystalline semiconductors under optical illumination», IEEE Transactions on Electron Devices, vol. ED-24, pp. 397-402, 1977.