Engineering metal precipitate size distributions to enhance gettering in multicrystalline silicon



The extraction of metal impurities during phosphorus diffusion gettering (PDG) is one of the crucial process steps when fabricating high-efficiency solar cells using low-cost, lower-purity silicon wafers. In this work, we show that for a given metal concentration, the size and density of metal silicide precipitates strongly influences the gettering efficacy. Different precipitate size distributions can be already found in silicon wafers grown by different techniques. In our experiment, however, the as-grown distribution of precipitated metals in multicrystalline Si sister wafers is engineered through different annealing treatments in order to control for the concentration and distribution of other defects. A high density of small precipitates is formed during a homogenization step, and a lower density of larger precipitates is formed during extended annealing at 740 °C. After PDG, homogenized samples show a decreased interstitial iron concentration compared to as-grown and ripened samples, in agreement with simulations.