Applied Physics Letters

Band offsets of n-type electron-selective contacts on cuprous oxide (Cu2O) for photovoltaics

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The development of cuprous oxide (Cu2O) photovoltaics (PVs) is limited by low device open-circuit voltages. A strong contributing factor to this underperformance is the conduction-band offset between Cu2O and its n-type heterojunction partner or electron-selective contact. In the present work, a broad range of possible n-type materials is surveyed, including ZnO, ZnS, Zn(O,S), (Mg,Zn)O, TiO2, CdS, and Ga2O3. Band offsets are determined through X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy and optical bandgap measurements. A majority of these materials is identified as having a negative conduction-band offset with respect to Cu2O; the detrimental impact of this on open-circuit voltage (VOC) is evaluated through 1-D device simulation. These results suggest that doping density of the n-type material is important as well, and that a poorly optimized heterojunction can easily mask changes in bulk minority carrier lifetime. Promising heterojunction candidates identified here include Zn(O,S) with [S]/[Zn] ratios >70%, and Ga2O3, which both demonstrate slightly positive conduction-band offsets and high VOC potential. This experimental protocol and modeling may be generalized to evaluate the efficiency potential of candidate heterojunction partners for other PV absorbers, and the materials identified herein may be promising for other absorbers with low electron affinities.