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Light Management in Photovoltaics and Photoelectrochemical Cells using Tapered Micro and Nano Structures


Yalamanchili, Sisir (2019) Light Management in Photovoltaics and Photoelectrochemical Cells using Tapered Micro and Nano Structures. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/RRYM-VK03.


Enhancing the efficiency and reducing the cost of solar photovoltaic (PV) systems is critical for increasing their penetration into energy generation market. The intermittency of energy generation from such systems due to diurnal, seasonal, and weather-related variation of sunlight limits them to low capacity factors (typically ~ 25%). Therefore, despite the cost of electricity from solar PV systems being cost competitive, further reductions are necessary to incorporate storage and increase the fraction of solar energy in total energy generation. An integrated photoelectrochemical (PEC) system that can generate fuel directly from sunlight could potentially reduce the balance of systems cost that dominates current PV systems, and provide an alternative way for energy storage. PEC systems are currently in research stage.

In this work conical and triangular micro-nano structures are utilized to explore optical solutions for maximizing the light absorption and therefore enhancing the efficiencies of both PV and PEC systems. Silicon (Si) based micro conical arrays demonstrate < 1 % Spectrum-and-Angle-Averaged reflection, and absorption nearing ray optic light trapping limit in a 20 µm effectively thick Si substrates. Si microcone based photocathodes prepared for performing hydrogen evolution reaction (HER) show that thick layers of light blocking Pt and Co-P catalysts can be incorporated with only a 6 % photocurrent loss. The light trapping properties of Si micro-cones are a result of efficient coupling of light to available waveguide modes in a conical geometry. Alternatively, TiO2 based dielectric nano-conical arrays are shown to couple the light to waveguide modes and transmit the light into a planar Si substrate despite covering 54 % of the planar front surface with a light blocking Ni catalyst as an alternative way of light trapping without texturing the light absorber.

Triangular silver (Ag) front contacts in place of conventional flat contacts over PV cells are shown as another alternative for reducing front contact reflection losses and enhancing the efficiency by ~ 1% in Si heterojunction solar cells. These structures are implemented using a polymer stamp prepared from a Si master with triangular groves, and by flowing Ag ink through them. A Si master fabrication method is shown for fabrication of multiple configurations of triangular Ag contacts which can potentially be applied to other PV and PEC systems to enhance their efficiency.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:Photovoltaics, Photoelectrochemical Cells, Light Trapping, Microcones, Nanocones, Effectively Transperent Contacts, Optics, Photoelectrochemistry
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Engineering and Applied Science
Major Option:Materials Science
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Atwater, Harry Albert (advisor)
  • Lewis, Nathan Saul (advisor)
Group:Kavli Nanoscience Institute
Thesis Committee:
  • Atwater, Harry Albert (chair)
  • Greer, Julia R.
  • Goddard, William A., III
  • Johnson, William Lewis
  • Lewis, Nathan Saul
Defense Date:5 December 2018
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:12182018-111020369
Persistent URL:
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URLURL TypeDescription 2 draws heavily from this publication 3 draws partially from this publication 3 draws heavily from this publication 4 draws heavily from this publication 7 draws partially from this publication 7 draws partially from this publication
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:11320
Deposited By: Sisir Yalamanchili
Deposited On:22 Jan 2019 20:24
Last Modified:08 Nov 2023 00:12

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