Tensile Stress-Dependent Fracture Behavior and Its Influences on Photovoltaic Characteristics in Flexible PbS/CdS Thin-Film Solar Cells

Tensile stress-dependent fracture behavior of flexible PbS/CdS heterojunction thin-film solar cells on indium tin oxide-coated polyethylene terephthalate (PET) substrates is investigated in terms of the variations of fracture parameters with applied strains and their influences on photovoltaic properties. The PbS absorber layer that exhibits only mechanical cracks within the applied strain range from ∼0.67 to 1.33% is prepared by chemical bath deposition at different temperatures of 50, 70, and 90 °C. The PbS thin films prepared at 50 °C demonstrate better mechanical resistance against the applied bending strain with the highest crack initiating bending strain of ∼1.14% and the lowest saturated crack density of 0.036 μm–1. Photovoltaic properties of the cells depend on the deposition temperature and the level of applied tensile stress. The values of short-circuit current density and fill factor are dramatically reduced above a certain level of applied strain, while open-circuit voltage is nearly maintained. The dependency of photovoltaic properties on the progress of fractures is understood as related to the reduced fracture energy and toughness, which is limitedly controllable by microstructural features of the absorber layer.