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Multi-junction, monolithic solar cell using low-band-gap materials lattice matched to GaAs or Ge

United States Patent

August 28, 2001
View the Complete Patent at the US Patent & Trademark Office
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A multi-junction, monolithic, photovoltaic solar cell device is provided for converting solar radiation to photocurrent and photovoltage with improved efficiency. The solar cell device comprises a plurality of semiconductor cells, i.e., active p/n junctions, connected in tandem and deposited on a substrate fabricated from GaAs or Ge. To increase efficiency, each semiconductor cell is fabricated from a crystalline material with a lattice constant substantially equivalent to the lattice constant of the substrate material. Additionally, the semiconductor cells are selected with appropriate band gaps to efficiently create photovoltage from a larger portion of the solar spectrum. In this regard, one semiconductor cell in each embodiment of the solar cell device has a band gap between that of Ge and GaAs. To achieve desired band gaps and lattice constants, the semiconductor cells may be fabricated from a number of materials including Ge, GaInP, GaAs, GaInAsP, GaInAsN, GaAsGe, BGaInAs, (GaAs)Ge, CuInSSe, CuAsSSe, and GaInAsNP. To further increase efficiency, the thickness of each semiconductor cell is controlled to match the photocurrent generated in each cell. To facilitate photocurrent flow, a plurality of tunnel junctions of low-resistivity material are included between each adjacent semiconductor cell. The conductivity or direction of photocurrent in the solar cell device may be selected by controlling the specific p-type or n-type characteristics for each active junction.
Olson; Jerry M. (Lakewood, CO), Kurtz; Sarah R. (Golden, CO), Friedman; Daniel J. (Lakewood, CO)
Midwest Research Institute (Kansas City, MO)
09/ 615,297
July 13, 2000
CONTRACTUAL ORIGIN OF THE INVENTION The United States Government has rights in this invention under Contract No. DE-AC36-99GO10337 between the United States Department of Energy and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, a Division of the Midwest Research Institute.