Effect of Nanocrystal Size and Carbon on Grain Growth during Annealing of Copper Zinc Tin Sulfide Nanocrystal Coatings

Bryce A. Williams, Michelle A. Smeaton, Nancy D. Trejo, Lorraine F. Francis, Eray S. Aydil

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Polycrystalline films were prepared by annealing coatings cast from colloidal dispersions of Cu2ZnSnS4 (CZTS) nanocrystals in sulfur vapor. This nanocrystal dispersion-based route is a promising potential low-cost approach for production of low-cost thin-film solar cells. We studied the effects of nanocrystal size, sulfur pressure, and carbon concentration on the microstructure development and grain growth during annealing. Coatings prepared from dispersions of CZTS nanocrystals with an average diameter of either 5 or 35 nm were annealed for 10-60 min at 600 °C in 50 or 500 Torr of sulfur. The CZTS nanocrystal size influenced both the rate and mechanism of grain growth. When coatings composed of 5 nm nanocrystals are annealed, abnormal grain growth forms micrometer-scale CZTS grains on the surface of the coating. In contrast, when CZTS coatings composed of 35 nm nanocrystals are annealed, grains grow uniformly via normal grain growth. Grain growth rates increased with sulfur pressure regardless of the nanocrystal size. The presence of carbon, originating from ligands used to stabilize nanocrystal dispersions, enhances abnormal grain growth, but too much carbon eventually inhibits all grain growth. On the basis of these observations, we propose a mechanism for microstructure development during annealing of CZTS nanocrystal coatings in sulfur. While much research effort has been expended on the reduction of carbon from nanocrystal coatings prior to sulfidation or selenization by means of ligand exchange or preannealing treatments in the belief that reduced carbon concentration aids CZTS microstructure development and solar cell efficiencies, this work indicates that carbon plays a more complex and significant role in CZTS grain growth than previously assumed: carbon may be beneficial or even required for rapid grain growth during sulfidation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1676-1683
Number of pages8
JournalChemistry of Materials
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 28 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • General Chemical Engineering
  • Materials Chemistry


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