Transparent conducting oxides (TCOs) are an increasingly important component of photovoltaic (PV) devices, where they act as electrode elements, structural templates, and diffusion barriers, and their work function controls the open-circuit device voltage. They are employed in applications that range from crystalline-Si heterojunction with intrinsic thin layer (HIT) cells to organic PV polymer solar cells. The desirable characteristics of TCO materials that are common to all PV technologies are similar to the requirements for TCOs for flat-panel display applications and include high optical transmissivity across a wide spectrum and low resistivity. Additionally, TCOs for terrestrial PV applications must use low-cost materials, and some may require device-technology-specific properties. We review the fundamentals of TCOs and the matrix of TCO properties and processing as they apply to current and future PV technologies.
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