Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name


Organizational Unit

Physics and Astronomy

First Advisor

Sean E. Shaheen, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Joseph K. Berry

Third Advisor

Julanna Gilbert

Fourth Advisor

Davor Balzar


Organic LEDs, Organic photovoltaic, Thin film, Transparent conductors, Transport contacts, Zinc oxide


Development of transparent oxide semiconductors (TOS) from Earth-abundant materials is of great interest for cost-effective thin film device applications, such as solar cells, light emitting diodes (LEDs), touch-sensitive displays, electronic paper, and transparent thin film transistors. The need of inexpensive or high performance electrode might be even greater for organic photovoltaic (OPV), with the goal to harvest renewable energy with inexpensive, lightweight, and cost competitive materials. The natural abundance of zinc and the wide bandgap (~3.3 eV) of its oxide make it an ideal candidate.

In this dissertation, I have introduced various concepts on the modulations of various surface, interface and bulk opto-electronic properties of ZnO based semiconductor for charge transport, charge selectivity and optimal device performance. I have categorized transparent semiconductors into two sub groups depending upon their role in a device. Electrodes, usually 200 to 500 nm thick, optimized for good transparency and transporting the charges to the external circuit. Here, the electrical conductivity in parallel direction to thin film, i.e bulk conductivity is important. And contacts, usually 5 to 50 nm thick, are optimized in case of solar cells for providing charge selectivity and asymmetry to manipulate the built in field inside the device for charge separation and collection. Whereas in Organic LEDs (OLEDs), contacts provide optimum energy level alignment at organic oxide interface for improved charge injections.

For an optimal solar cell performance, transparent electrodes are designed with maximum transparency in the region of interest to maximize the light to pass through to the absorber layer for photo-generation, plus they are designed for minimum sheet resistance for efficient charge collection and transport. As such there is need for material with high conductivity and transparency. Doping ZnO with some common elements such as B, Al, Ga, In, Ge, Si, and F result in n-type doping with increase in carriers resulting in high conductivity electrode, with better or comparable opto-electronic properties compared to current industry-standard indium tin oxide (ITO). Furthermore, improvement in mobility due to improvement on crystallographic structure also provide alternative path for high conductivity ZnO TCOs.

Implementing these two aspects, various studies were done on gallium doped zinc oxide (GZO) transparent electrode, a very promising indium free electrode. The dynamics of the superimposed RF and DC power sputtering was utilized to improve the microstructure during the thin films growth, resulting in GZO electrode with conductivity greater than 4000 S/cm and transparency greater than ~90 %. Similarly, various studies on research and development of Indium Zinc Tin Oxide and Indium Zinc Oxide thin films which can be applied to flexible substrates for next generation solar cells application is presented. In these new TCO systems, understanding the role of crystallographic structure ranging from poly-crystalline to amorphous phase and the influence on the charge transport and optical transparency as well as important surface passivation and surface charge transport properties.

Implementation of these electrode based on ZnO on opto-electronics devices such as OLED and OPV is complicated due to chemical interaction over time with the organic layer or with ambient. The problem of inefficient charge collection/injection due to poor understanding of interface and/or bulk property of oxide electrode exists at several oxide-organic interfaces. The surface conductivity, the work function, the formation of dipoles and the band-bending at the interfacial sites can positively or negatively impact the device performance. Detailed characterization of the surface composition both before and after various chemicals treatment of various oxide electrode can therefore provide insight into optimization of device performance. Some of the work related to controlling the interfacial chemistry associated with charge transport of transparent electrodes are discussed. Thus, the role of various pre-treatment on poly-crystalline GZO electrode and amorphous indium zinc oxide (IZO) electrode is compared and contrasted. From the study, we have found that removal of defects and self passivating defects caused by accumulation of hydroxides in the surface of both poly-crystalline GZO and amorphous IZO, are critical for improving the surface conductivity and charge transport. Further insight on how these insulating and self-passivating defects cause charge accumulation and recombination in an device is discussed.

With recent rapid development of bulk-heterojunction organic photovoltaics active materials, devices employing ZnO and ZnO based electrode provide air stable and cost-competitive alternatives to traditional inorganic photovoltaics. The organic light emitting diodes (OLEDs) have already been commercialized, thus to follow in the footsteps of this technology, OPV devices need further improvement in power conversion efficiency and stable materials resulting in long device lifetimes. Use of low work function metals such as Ca/Al in standard geometry do provide good electrode for electron collection, but serious problems using low work-function metal electrodes originates from the formation of non-conductive metal oxide due to oxidation resulting in rapid device failure. Hence, using low work-function, air stable, conductive metal oxides such as ZnO as electrons collecting electrode and high work-function, air stable metals such as silver for harvesting holes, has been on the rise.

Devices with degenerately doped ZnO functioning as transparent conductive electrode, or as charge selective layer in a polymer/fullerene based heterojunction, present useful device structures for investigating the functional mechanisms within OPV devices and a possible pathway towards improved air-stable high efficiency devices. Furthermore, analysis of the physical properties of the ZnO layers with varying thickness, crystallographic structure, surface chemistry and grain size deposited via various techniques such as atomic layer deposition, sputtering and solution-processed ZnO with their respective OPV device performance is discussed. We find similarity and differences in electrode property for good charge injection in OLEDs and good charge collection in OPV devices very insightful in understanding physics behind device failures and successes. In general, self-passivating surface of amorphous TCOs IZO, ZTO and IZTO forms insulating layer that hinders the charge collection. Similarly, we find modulation of the carrier concentration and the mobility in electron transport layer, namely zinc oxide thin films, very important for optimizing device performance.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Rights Holder

Ajaya Kanta Sigdel


Received from ProQuest

File Format




File Size

271 p.


Condensed Matter Physics, Materials Science, Nanotechnology