Solar cell design optimised through enhanced inspection

Jon Lawson

Through evolving solar cell technology, harnessing solar power as a clean source of renewable energy is becoming ever more successful.

Producing efficient and affordable devices is key to its widespread application, and this in turn relies on optimised fabrication and industrial inspection. At solar cell manufacturing company S’Tile, inspection is enhanced with the Olympus DSX500 digital light microscope and LEXT OLS4100 confocal laser scanning microscope.

Enabling the development of a high-performance yet affordable design provides S’Tile with a competitive advantage, and the cutting edge research is explained in a new application note.

The manufacturing process of S’Tile’s proprietary solar cell design involves many steps, each of which must be carefully and individually optimised for maximising solar cell performance. In developing and optimising this complex multi-step process, the Olympus DSX500 and LEXT OLS4100 have proved instrumental. Moreover, these systems provide an especially comprehensive approach for fast and efficient inspection when employed alongside specialised methods such as electrical resistance monitoring.

The layer thickness measurement tool of the DSX500 has been of great value in the critical task of inspecting etched conductive wells, as well shape and depth affect current transport.

Engineers were able to easily analyse the consistency of well shape and depth, and applied alongside electrical testing this provided comprehensive insights into protocol success. Merging high resolution and operating simplicity, the all-in-one, fully motorised system features a host of digital capabilities to enhance inspection tasks.

Since this study, the DSX500 has now been upgraded to the DSX510, which offers artefact-free image stitching and guaranteed repeatability across all axes.  Fast, high-resolution inspection of an anti-reflective surface coating was achieved with the LEXT OLS4100, accurately measuring height differences that in some cases were just a single micron. S’Tile engineers found image quality comparable with electron microscopy, enabling them to easily optimise the protocol for the anti-reflective coating and significantly reduce reflectivity for maximum performance.

Digital light microscopy has significantly advanced the work at S’Tile, allowing the engineers to understand in more detail the factors that lead to the success of a particular protocol. The systems are an ideal complement to specialised measurement tools, which together drive the development of the complete fabrication process, and provide S’Tile with a competitive advantage. 

The Olympus LEXT OLS4100 and DSX510 systems are optimised for enhancing a range of industrial inspection tasks across the board. 

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