Abstract

Indium–tin–oxide (ITO) is a transparent conductive thin film that is widely used as a top conducive layer in photovoltaic solar cells. However, ITO is sensitive to environmental conditions and the electrical conductivity degrades as a consequence of harsh environmental conditions. Furthermore, the thermal expansion coefficient mismatch between the ITO film and the substrate creates stress/strain on the film when the package is subjected to fluctuating temperatures. This could create micro-cracks and consequently damage the film. Therefore, this study was designed to study the effect of the thermal cycling and thermal aging on the ITO thin films to simulate the effect of continuous high temperatures and fluctuating temperatures that may be applied on the thin films during the usage. In this study, two sets of experiments were conducted on a ${\hbox{60}}~\Omega/\square$ sputter-deposited ITO on ${\hbox{127}}~\mu{\hbox{m}}$ heat stabilized Poly Ethylene Terephthalate (PET) substrate. The first set of experiments contained four samples which were thermally aged at ${\hbox{100}}\ ^{\circ}{\hbox{C}}$ for 30 days and the other set of experiments contained another four samples which were thermally cycled for 900 cycles. The thermal profile consisted of a high temperature of ${\hbox{100}}\ ^{\circ}{\hbox{C}}$, a low temperature of ${\hbox{0}}\ ^{\circ}{\hbox{C}}$, dwell time of 10 minutes, and ramp rate of ${\hbox{10}}^{\circ}{\hbox{C}}/{\min}$, as depicted in Fig. 1 . The initial results showed that the ITO thin film is not stable in the thermal aging experiment and the electrical resistivity gradually increased for all samples until the end of the 30 days. The degradation happened during the thermal cycling as well. However, SEM images show that the morphology of the ITO surface is stable under both conditions. Energy-dispersive X-ray (EDX) spectroscopy analysis showed stability in the ITO thin film in terms of composition. XRD spectra confirmed the improved crystallinity for the thermally aged films, which corresponded to the increased transmission in the visible region.

© 2012 IEEE

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