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Light Trapping in Plasmonic Solar Cells


Ferry, Vivian Eleanor (2011) Light Trapping in Plasmonic Solar Cells. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/AMD4-Q845.


Subwavelength nanostructures enable the manipulation and molding of light in nanoscale dimensions. By controlling and designing the complex dielectric function and nanoscale geometry we can affect the coupling of light into specific active materials and tune macroscale properties such as reflection, transmission, and absorption. Most solar cell systems face a trade-off with decreasing semiconductor thickness: reducing the semiconductor volume increases open circuit voltages, but also decreases the absorp- tion and thus the photocurrent. Light trapping is particularly critical for thin-film amorphous Si (a-Si:H) solar cells, which must be made less than optically thick to enable complete carrier collection. By enhancing absorption in a given semiconductor volume, we can achieve high efficiency devices with less than 100 nm of active region.

In this thesis we explore the use of designed plasmonic nanostructures to couple incident sunlight into localized resonant modes and propagating waveguide modes of an ultrathin semiconductor for enhanced solar-to-electricity conversion. We begin by developing computational tools to analyze incoupling from sunlight to guided modes across the solar spectrum and a range of incident angles. We then show the potential of this method to result in absorption enhancements beyond the limits for thick film solar cells. The second part of this thesis describes the integration of plasmonic nanos- tructures with a-Si:H solar cells, showing that designed nanostructures can lead to enhanced photocurrent over randomly textured light trapping surfaces, and develops a computational model to accurately simulate the absorption in these structures. The final chapter discusses the fabrication of a high-efficiency (9.5%) solar cell with a less than 100 nm absorber layer and broadband, angle isotropic photocurrent enhance- ment. Moreover, we discuss general design rules where light trapping nanopatterns are defined by their spatial coherence spectral density.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:plasmonics, photovoltaics
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Chemistry and Chemical Engineering
Major Option:Chemistry
Awards:Demetriades-Tsafka-Kokkalis Prize in Entrepreneurship or Related Fields, 2011.
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Atwater, Harry Albert
Thesis Committee:
  • Gray, Harry B. (chair)
  • Lewis, Nathan Saul
  • Barton, Jacqueline K.
  • Atwater, Harry Albert
Defense Date:6 May 2011
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:05202011-180941490
Persistent URL:
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:6414
Deposited By: Vivian Ferry
Deposited On:20 Jun 2012 21:03
Last Modified:08 Nov 2023 00:12

Thesis Files

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