A New Electrodeposition Process of Crystalline Silicon Utilizing Water-Soluble KF–KCl Molten Salt

Tuesday, 7 October 2014: 11:20
Expo Center, 1st Floor, Universal 3 (Moon Palace Resort)
K. Maeda (Graduate School of Energy Science, Kyoto University), K. Yasuda (Environment, Safety and Health Organization, Kyoto University), T. Nohira, R. Hagiwara (Graduate School of Energy Science, Kyoto University), and T. Homma (Waseda University)
As a new production process of silicon solar cells, electrodeposition in high temperature molten salts is worth investigating. One of the most studied molten salt systems for electrodeposition of silicon is LiF-KF or LiF-NaF-KF containing K2SiF6. Many important works regarding this molten salt were undertaken in 1970s and 1980s [1-4]. Cohen reported that both epitaxial and polycrystalline continuous films of compact, coherent and well-adherent silicon were obtained from LiF-KF containing K2SiF6 at 1023 K [2]. One of the problems in the previous works is the removal of the adhered salt on the deposited silicon. This is due to the very low solubility of LiF and NaF to water. Another problem of the previous studies, when aiming at the solar grade purity, is the availability of high purity and low cost silicon ion sources. Conventionally, either K2SiF6 or anode dissolution of Si rod was utilized. However, it is difficult to prepare K2SiF6and Si rod having solar grade purity with low cost.

From this background, we propose a new electrodeposition process of crystalline silicon, as shown in Fig. 1.  Here, fluoride–chloride molten salt is used as an electrolyte and SiCl4 as a silicon ion source. Among many kinds of fluoride–chloride molten salts, we especially focus on the eutectic KF–KCl (45:55 mol%) molten salt. Since both KF and KCl are highly soluble to water, the adhered salt can be easily removed by water washing. Moreover, high purity SiCl4, which is produced with low cost, can be used as an ion source. When gaseous SiCl4is introduced into the molten KF–KCl, the following reaction proceeds:

SiCl4 + 6F → SiF62− + 4Cl                                                     (1)

Thus, after the introduction of SiCl4 gas, the resultant molten salt is same as the molten KF–KCl containing K2SiF6. Another advantage of the use of fluoride–chloride molten salt is the capability of Cl2 gas evolution on the carbon anode, which realizes the fixed composition of molten salt as well as the reuse of Cl2 for the production of SiCl4.

Firstly, electrochemical reduction of Si(IV) ion on a silver electrode was investigated by cyclic voltammetry in a molten KF–KCl–K2SiF6 system at 923 K. Then, the optimum conditions were explored for electrodepositing adherent, compact and smooth silicon layer. Galvanostatic electrolysis was conducted for silver electrodes with various current densities and K2SiF6 concentrations. As typical results, Fig. 2 shows cross-sectional SEM images of the samples electrodeposited at (a) 38.8, (b) 155 and (c) 310 mA cm-2 in 2.0 mol% K2SiF6. A compact and smooth Si layer was obtained at an intermediate current density of 155 mA cm-2. At a lower current density of 38.8 mA cm-2, detachment of Si layer from the Ag substrate occurred during the water washing. At a higher current density of 310 mA cm-2, the morphology changed into nodular.


This study was financially supported in part by the CREST program by Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST).


[1] U. Cohen and R. A. Huggins, J. Electrochem. Soc., 123, 381 (1976).

[2] U. Cohen, J. Electron. Mater., 6, 607 (1977).

[3] D. Elwell and R. S. Feigelson, Sol. Energ. Mat., 6, 123 (1982).

[4] D. Elwell and G. M. Rao, J. Appl. Electrochem., 18, 15 (1988).