Synthesis, deposition, and microstructure development of thin films formed by sulfidation and selenization of copper zinc tin sulfide nanocrystals

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Synthesis, deposition, and microstructure development of thin films formed by sulfidation and selenization of copper zinc tin sulfide nanocrystals

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Significant reduction in greenhouse gas emission and pollution associated with the global power demand can be accomplished by supplying tens-of-terawatts of power with solar cell technologies. No one solar cell material currently on the market is poised to meet this challenge due to issues such as manufacturing cost, material shortage, or material toxicity. For this reason, there is increasing interest in efficient light-absorbing materials that are comprised of abundant and non-toxic elements for thin film solar cell. Among these materials are copper zinc tin sulfide (Cu<sub>2</sub>ZnSnS<sub>4</sub>, or CZTS), copper zinc tin selenide (Cu<sub>2</sub>ZnSnSe<sub>4</sub>, or CZTSe), and copper zinc tin sulfoselenide alloys [Cu<sub>2</sub>ZnSn(S<sub>x</sub>Se<sub>1-x</sub>)<sub>4</sub>, or CZTSSe]. Laboratory power conversion efficiencies of CZTSSe-based solar cells have risen to almost 13% in less than three decades of research. Meeting the terawatt challenge will also require low cost fabrication. CZTSSe thin films from annealed colloidal nanocrystal coatings is an example of solution-based methods that can reduce manufacturing costs through advantages such as high throughput, high material utilization, and low capital expenses. The film microstructure and grain size affects the solar cell performance. To realize low cost commercial production and high efficiencies of CZTSSe-based solar cells, it is necessary to understand the fundamental factors that affect crystal growth and microstructure evolution during CZTSSe annealing. Cu<sub>2</sub>ZnSnS<sub>4</sub> (CZTS) nanocrystals were synthesized via thermolysis of single-source cation and sulfur precursors copper, zinc and tin diethyldithiocarbamates. The average nanocrystal size could be tuned between 2 nm and 40 nm, by varying the synthesis temperature between 150 °C and 340 °C. The synthesis is rapid and is completed in less than 10 minutes. Characterization by X-ray diffraction, Raman spectroscopy, transmission electron microscopy and energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy confirm that the nanocrystals are nominally stoichiometric kesterite CZTS. The ~2 nm nanocrystals synthesized at 150 °C exhibit quantum confinement, with a band gap of 1.67 eV. Larger nanocrystals have the expected bulk CZTS band gap of 1.5 eV. Several micron thick films deposited by drop casting colloidal dispersions of ~40 nm CZTS nanocrystals were crack-free, while those cast using 5 nm nanocrystals had micron-scale cracks. We showed the applicability of these nanocrystal coatings for thin film solar cells by demonstrating a CZTS thin film solar cell using coatings annealed in a sulfur atmosphere. We conducted a systematic study of the factors controlling crystal growth and microstructure development during sulfidation annealing of films cast from colloidal dispersions of CZTS nanocrystals. The film microstructure is controlled by concurrent normal and abnormal grain growth. At 600 °C to 800 °C and low sulfur pressures (50 Torr), abnormal CZTS grains up to 10 µm in size grow on the surface of the CZTS nanocrystal film via transport of material from the nanocrystals to the abnormal grains. Meanwhile, the nanocrystals coarsen, sinter, and undergo normal grain growth. The driving force for abnormal grain growth is the reduction in total energy associated with the high surface area nanocrystals. The eventual coarsening of the CZTS nanocrystals reduces the driving force for abnormal crystal growth. Increasing the sulfur pressure by an order of magnitude to 500 Torr accelerates both normal and abnormal crystal growth though sufficient acceleration of the former eventually reduces the latter by reducing the driving force for abnormal grain growth. For example, at high temperatures (700-800 <super>o</super>C) and sulfur pressures (500 Torr) normal grains quickly grow to ~500 nm which significantly reduces abnormal grain growth. The use of soda lime glass as the substrate, instead of quartz, accelerates normal grain growth. Normal grains grow to ~500 nm at lower temperatures and sulfur pressures (i.e., 600 °C and 50 Torr) than those required to grow the same size grains on quartz (700 °C and 500 Torr). Moreover, carbon is removed by volatilization from films where normal crystal growth is fast. There are significant differences in the chemistry and in the thermodynamics involved during selenization and sulfidation of CZTS colloidal nanocrystal coatings to form CZTSSe or CZTS thin films, respectively. To understand these differences, the roles of vapor pressure, annealing temperature, and heating rate in the formation of different microstructures of CZTSSe films were investigated. Selenization produced a bi-layer microstructure where a large CZTSSe-crystal layer grew on top of a nanocrystalline carbon-rich bottom layer. Differences in the chemistry of carbon and selenium and that of carbon and sulfur account for this segregation of carbon during selenization. For example, CSe<sub>2</sub> and CS<sub>2</sub>, both volatile species, may form as a result of chalcogen interactions with carbon during annealing. Unlike CS<sub>2</sub>, however, CSe<sub>2</sub> may readily polymerize at room temperature and one atmosphere. Carbon segregation may be occurring only during selenization due to the formation of a Cu-Se polymer [i.e., (CSe<sub>2-x</sub>)] within the nanocrystal film. The (CSe<sub>2-x</sub>) inhibits sintering of nanocrystals in the bottom layer. Additionally, a fast heating rate results in temperature variations that lead to transient condensation of selenium on the film. This is observed only during selenization because the equilibrium vapor pressure of selenium is lower than that of sulfur. The presence of liquid selenium during sintering accelerates coarsening and densification of the normal crystal layer (no abnormal crystal layer) by liquid phase sintering. Carbon segregation does not occur where liquid selenium was present.


University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. August 2014. Major: Chemical Engineering. Advisors: Eray S. Aydil, David J. Norris. 1 dcomputer file (PDF); xxiii, 158 pages.

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Chernomordik, Boris David. (2014). Synthesis, deposition, and microstructure development of thin films formed by sulfidation and selenization of copper zinc tin sulfide nanocrystals. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy,

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