Date of Award

Summer 2008

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Materials Science and Engineering - (Ph.D.)


Committee for the Interdisciplinary Program in Materials Science and Engineering

First Advisor

N. M. Ravindra

Second Advisor

Bhushan L. Sopori

Third Advisor

Trevor Tyson

Fourth Advisor

Anthony Fiory

Fifth Advisor

Tao Zhou

Sixth Advisor

Sufian Abedrabbo


A mesa diode has been modeled and its performance under dark and illuminated conditions has been simulated using a commercial finite element software package. These simulations have led to a determination of the self-consistent solution to the continuity equations for electrons and holes using the steady-state drift-diffusion model for carrier dynamics coupled with electric potential determined from Poisson's equation. The purpose of these simulations has been to determine the influence of edge conditions on the overall performance of mesa diodes under dark and illuminated conditions.

Mesa diode arrays are fabricated on crystalline silicon solar cells. They are an array of small area solar cells that are electrically isolated from one another. They can be probed to spatially measure the current density vs. voltage curves under dark and illuminated conditions. The underlying models of bulk and surface recombination mechanisms have been well established for crystalline silicon based semiconductor devices such as the mesa diode. However, the combination of these phenomena that occur during the simulation of the operation of the mesa diode results in a unique edge effect that can significantly change the overall performance of the mesa diode. In particular, the simulations performed show that the space charge region becomes extended along the vertical edge of the mesa diode due to the fixed positive surface charge. At the intersection of the vertical edge and step, a strong electric field is produced because it has a small convex radius of curvature. Depending on the sharpness of this intersection, the entire device can become significantly shunted. Simulations have been performed with a sharp corner and a smooth curve at the intersection of the vertical edge and the step. The use of a smooth curved transition results in significantly lower dark current density vs. voltage and a greater open circuit voltage and fill factor under illumination. Yet, even with a curved transition, the space charge region can extend approximately 100 microns into a 199.5 micron thick mesa diode, and have a bulk recombination rate that is two orders of magnitude greater than the rest of the device at low forward biases.