The ultrathin thickness (∼1-2 nm) of the native oxide layer on silicon surfaces, which acts as efficient trapping centers, precludes the possibility of studying its impact on the surface-charge carrier dynamics by conventional time-resolved laser spectroscopic techniques because of the large penetration depth of the pump and probe pulses. Here, we use four-dimensional scanning ultrafast electron microscopy (4D S-UEM) with unique surface sensitivity to directly visualize the charge carrier dynamics on Si(100) crystals before and after surface treatment (which removes the native oxide layer) in real space and time simultaneously. Our time-resolved snapshots of the top surface and Kelvin probe-force microscopy results demonstrate that the oxide layer can be formed within minutes after surface treatment, creating undesirable surface-trap states that destroy the population of photogenerated charge carriers on the surface and possibly at the device interface. This new surface observation provides critical photophysical insights into how a few atomic layers of oxide can dramatically influence charge carrier recombination dynamics in silicon solar cells.
Bibliographical noteKAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2020-10-01
Acknowledgements: The research reported in this publication was supported by funding from King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST).