In view of the complexity of compound semiconductor based thin-film solar cells, which are comprised of a multitude of layers, interfaces, surfaces, elements, impurities, etc., it is crucial to characterize and understand the structural, chemical, and electronic properties of these components. Hence, this paper gives a review of our recent progress in the characterization of compound semiconductor thin films using synchrotron-based characterization methods. It is demonstrated how different analytical techniques are extraordinarily powerful to reveal the material characteristics from many different perspectives, ultimately resulting in a comprehensive picture of these properties. Light will be shed on structural phase transitions, reactive thin-film formation mechanisms, surface off-stoichiometries, and the electronic structure of chalcopyrite and kesterite compound semiconductors. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
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