Morgann Berg1 3 Jason Kephart2 Walajabad Sampath2 Taisuke Ohta1 3 Calvin Chan1

1, Sandia National Laboratories, Albuquerque, New Mexico, United States
3, Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies, Albuquerque, New Mexico, United States
2, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado, United States

The energy positions of the valence and conduction electronic states with respect to the vacuum level are essential parameters to evaluate how the band gaps of semiconductors or Fermi-levels of metals line up with respect to each other. Such electronic structures of materials can be determined using photoemission spectroscopy (PES). PES measurements, however, remain challenging for inhomogeneous materials with nano- to micrometer lateral dimensions due to its mesoscopic probing area, typically no less than several microns. Photoemission electron microscopy (PEEM) is a cathode lens electron microscopy technique that combines photoemission imaging with spectroscopic modes of operation to provide photoemission spectra from areas less than one micron in size. Here, we present PEEM studies of the electronic structure of polycrystalline cadmium telluride (CdTe) thin films, a test case to examine the applicability of this new microscopic approach to photovoltaic materials. Post-deposition CdCl2 treatment of polycrystalline CdTe is known to increase photovoltaic efficiency. However, the precise chemical, structural, and electronic changes that underpin this improvement are still debated. In this study, spectroscopic PEEM was used to spatially map the vacuum level and ionization energy of CdTe films, enabling the identification of electronic structure variations between grains and grain boundaries. In vacuo preparation and inert transfer of oxide-free CdTe surfaces isolated the separate effects of CdCl2 treatment and ambient oxygen exposure. Qualitatively, grain boundaries displayed lower work function and downward band bending relative to grain interiors, but only after air exposure of CdCl2-treated CdTe. This study highlights the importance of probing the spatially varying electronic structure, elucidating the concurrent impacts of processing steps (CdCl2 treatment and oxygen exposure) to develop a comprehensive picture of local electronic structure in this inhomogeneous semiconductor.

The PEEM work was performed at the Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies, an Office of Science User Facility (DE-AC04-94AL85000). M. B. and T. O. was supported by the CINT user program and Sandia LDRD. M. B. and C. C. were supported by a U.S. DOE-EERE SunShot BRIDGE award (DE-FOA-0000654 CPS25859). Sandia National Laboratories is a multi-mission laboratory managed and operated by National Technology and Engineering Solutions of Sandia, LLC., a wholly owned subsidiary of Honeywell International, Inc., for the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration under contract DE-NA0003525.