Due to the high temperatures used for high deposition rate microcrystalline (μc-Si:H) and polycrystalline silicon, there is a need for compact and temperature-stable doped layers. In this study we report on films grown by the layer-by-layer method (LbL) using VHF PECVD. Growth of an amorphous silicon layer is alternated by a hydrogen plasma treatment. In LbL, the surface reactions are separated time-wise from the nucleation in the bulk. We observed that it is possible to incorporate dopant atoms in the layer, without disturbing the nucleation. Even at high substrate temperatures (up to 400°C) doped layers can be made microcrystalline. At these temperatures, in the continuous wave case, crystallinity is hindered, which is generally attributed to the out-diffusion of hydrogen from the surface and the presence of impurities (dopants).
We observe that the parameter window for the treatment time for p-layers is smaller compared to n-layers. Moreover we observe that for high temperatures, the nucleation of p-layers is more adversely affected than for n-layers. Thin, doped layers have been structurally, optically and electrically characterized. The best n-layer made at 400°C, with a thickness of only 31 nm, had an activation energy of 0.056 eV and a dark conductivity of 2.7 S/cm, while the best p-layer made at 350°C, with a thickness of 29 nm, had an activation energy of 0.11 V and a dark conductivity of 0.1 S/cm. The suitability of these high temperature n-layers has been demonstrated in an n-i-p microcrystalline silicon solar cell with an unoptimized μc-Si:H i-layer deposited at 250°C and without buffer. The Voc of the cell is 0.48 V and the fill factor is 70 %.