A review is given on a research trajectory of amorphous and microcrystalline semiconductors and their device applications proceeded since 1970. A brief explanation on the motivation to start amorphous semiconductor research is given to produce a new kind of synthetic semiconductor having continuous energy gap controllability with valency electron controllability through our experience of modulation spectroscopy in semiconductors.
The first material we have challenged is Si-As-Te chalcogenide semiconductor which has a very wide vitreous region in Gibb's Triangle. A series of systematic experiments has been carried out in the terrestrial environment since 1971, and also within the TT-500A rocket experiment in 1980, and the Spacelab. J experiments FMPT (First Material Processing Test) project in 1992. The second material is hydrogenated amorphous silicon (a-Si:H) and its alloys started in 1976 just after the Garmisch Partenkirchen ICALS-6. With some basic research on the a-Si:H film deposition technology and film quality improvement, our continuous effort to improve the efficiency bore the tandem type solar cells in 1979, and also new products of a-SiC:H and a-SiGe:H in the early period of 1980s are described. These innovative device structures and materials have bloomed in the middle of 1980s in R & D phase such as a-SiC/a-Si heterojunction solar cells, a-Si/a-SiGe and also a-Si/poly-Si tandem type solar cells, and industrialized in recent few years. New kind of trials on full-color thin film light emitting devices has also been recently initiated with wide range of band gap controllability of a-SiC:H.
The third material is microcrystalline silicon (µc-Si) and their alloys which gathers a tremendous R & D effort as a promised candidate for the bottom cell of the a-Si/µc-Si tandem solar cells aimed for the all-round plasma CVD process for the next age thin film photovoltaic devices. In the final part of presentation, a brief discussion will be given on a technological evolution from “bulk crystalline age” to “multilayered thin film age” in the semiconductor optoelectronics toward 21 century.