Dramatic Reduction of Silicon Surface Recombination by ALD TiOx Capping Layer from TiCl4 and H2O: The Role of Chlorine

Mohamed M. Shehata, Daniel H. Macdonald, Lachlan E. Black*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    4 Citations (Scopus)


    Amorphous thin-film TiOx prepared via atomic layer deposition (ALD) has been identified as one of the most promising materials for use in transparent passivating contacts in high-efficiency and low-cost crystalline silicon (c-Si) solar cells. As highlighted in this work, the passivation performance of ALD TiOx layers strongly depends on the metal precursor used, with films prepared using TiCl4 recently showing the best results. However, a full understanding of how such films achieve their high level of surface passivation has not yet been demonstrated. This study provides a clear demonstration that a key part of this passivation mechanism is due to chlorine (Cl) accumulation at the Si surface. This mechanism is demonstrated to be quite general in nature by showing how 2 nm of ALD TiOx (TiCl4 + H2O) can be applied as a capping layer for either ZnO or Al2O3 interlayers to dramatically reduce silicon surface recombination. Cl depth profiles obtained using secondary ion mass spectrometry confirm the presence of Cl extending through the depth of the interlayers with a peak at the silicon interface. Remarkably, this diffusion of Cl is observed following low-temperature (75 °C) deposition of the TiOx capping layer, without any subsequent thermal treatment. Contrary to earlier studies that treated residual Cl in ALD films as a general contamination issue, these findings reveal unequivocally that chlorine plays a crucial role in Si surface passivation and can be classed as an effective passivation element, similar to hydrogen in its ability to passivate Si dangling bonds. The outcomes of this research emphasize the importance of residual chlorine in enhancing the passivation of buried interfaces and provide additional motivation for employing metal chloride precursors for silicon surface passivation applications.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)46504-46512
    Number of pages9
    JournalACS applied materials & interfaces
    Issue number39
    Publication statusPublished - 4 Oct 2023


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