We have optimized plasma-enhanced chemical vapor deposition (PECVD) of SiN-based antireflection (AR) coatings with special consideration for the short-wavelength (<600 nm) parasitic absorption in SiN. Spectroscopic ellipsometry was used to measure the dispersion relation for both the refractive index n and the extinction coefficient k, allowing a precise analysis of the trade-off between reflection and absorption in SiN-based AR coatings. Although we focus on photovoltaic applications, this study may be useful for photodetectors, IR optics, and any device for which it is essential to maximize the transmission of light into silicon. We designed and optimized various AR coatings for minimal average (spectrally) weighted reflectance (〈Rw〉) and average weighted absorptance (〈Aw〉), using the air mass 1.5 global solar spectrum. In most situations 〈Rw〉 decreased with higher n, but 〈Aw〉 increased because k increased with n. For the practical case of a single-layer AR coating for silicon under glass, an optimum refractive index of ∼2.23 (at 632.8 nm) was determined. Further simulations revealed that a double-layer SiN stack with an n = 2.42 film underneath an n = 2.03 film gives the minimum total photocurrent loss. Similar optimization of double-layer SiN/SiO2 coatings for silicon in air revealed an optimum of n = 2.28 for SiN. To determine the allowable tolerance in index and film thickness, we generated isotransmittance plots, which revealed more leeway for n values below the optimum than above because absorption begins to reduce photocurrent for high n values.
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