Non-destructive determination of phase, size, and strain of individual grains in polycrystalline photovoltaic materials

Mariana Mar Lucas, Tiago Ramos, Peter S. Jørgensen, Stela Canulescu, Peter Kenesei, Jonathan Wright, Henning F. Poulsen, Jens W. Andreasen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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The non-destructive structural characterization of individual grains in thin-films photovoltaics based on polycrystalline materials is a powerful tool for revealing important details of the microstructure of solar cell absorbers. Here, we use three-dimensional X-ray diffraction (3DXRD) to obtain statistics on the phase, size, orientation and strain tensors of the grains, as well as their twin relations in Cu2ZnSnS4 (CZTS) absorbers. Moreover, this powerful approach allows the non-ambiguous determination of phases with distinct optical and electrical properties but similar lattice parameters, such as CZTS and ZnS. Our analysis over cumulative statistics of nearly 600 grains in polycrystalline CZTS reveals that a fraction of 2.5% corresponds to the ZnS secondary phase. Statistics of the strain distribution in the polycrystalline CZTS layer indicate an average tensile stress in the plane of the film of ~70 MPa and a compressive stress along the normal to the film of ~145 MPa. We found that 41% of the total number of grains in CZTS absorbers are Σ3 twins. We calculate the frequency of the six types of Σ3 boundaries, revealing that the 180° rotation along the axis<221>is the most frequent. Accessing the microstructure opens the possibility to study its influence on the properties of the film, such as bandgap variations due to strain or the role of twin boundaries in the charge transport mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish
Article number161364
JournalJournal of Alloys and Compounds
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • 3DXRD
  • Solar cells
  • Kesterite
  • Strain
  • Texture
  • Twinning


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