, Volume 96, Issue 1, pp 235-253,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 24 Dec 2008

Electronic states at dislocations and metal silicide precipitates in crystalline silicon and their role in solar cell materials


Predominant dislocation types in solar silicon are dissociated into 30°- and 90°-partials with reconstructed cores. Besides shallow 1D-band localized in their strain field and a quasi-2D band at the stacking fault connecting the two partials, the existence of several intrinsic core defects with deep lying levels has been demonstrated by electron spin resonance. The majority of core defects occur in nonequilibrium situations and, with the exception of a small EPR-signal assigned to a reconstruction defect, vanish after careful annealing above 800°C. There is good evidence now that part of deep levels observed in dislocated silicon is associated with impurities, especially with transition metal impurities. Electron-hole-pair recombination at a dislocation mainly runs via its shallow bands and is strongly increased by impurities bound to its core or in the strain field. The concentration of these impurities can be reduced by gettering processes to such a low level that radiative recombination at dislocations yields a luminescence efficiency of 0.1% at room temperature.

A quite coherent picture has emerged for metal impurity precipitation in silicon. Early stages of precipitation in defect-free silicon are characterised by kinetically selected metastable defects forming as a result of large chemical driving forces for precipitation. Such defects are associated with deep level spectra which show the properties of extended multielectron defects. The evolution of the system to energetically more favourable configurations proceeds via ordinary particle coarsening but also via internal ripening, a process reminiscent of the above-mentioned metastable defects. Electronically, the defects evolve into metal-like inclusions which in general seem to act as strong recombination centers for minority carriers. In the presence of dislocations metastable defects quickly transform into equilibrium structures in the course of precipitation or do not form at all. In the presence of several metal impurities silicide precipitates which can be described as solid solutions of the respective metal atoms are observed, which is at least qualitatively in accord with ternary phase diagrams. Like single-metal silicide precipitates, strong minority carrier recombination is also typical for those multi-metal silicide particles.