Nanoparticle plasmonics for 2D-photovoltaics: mechanisms, optimization, and limits.

Department of Applied Physics, Chalmers University of Technology, SE-412 96 Göteborg, Sweden.
Optics Express (Impact Factor: 3.53). 08/2009; 17(14):11944-57. DOI: 10.1364/OE.17.011944
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Plasmonic nanostructures placed within or near photovoltaic (PV) layers are of high current interest for improving thin film solar cells. We demonstrate, by electrodynamics calculations, the feasibility of a new class of essentially two dimensional (2D) solar cells based on the very large optical cross sections of plasmonic nanoparticles. Conditions for inducing absorption in extremely thin PV layers via plasmon near-fields, are optimized in 2D-arrays of (i) core-shell particles, and (ii) plasmonic particles on planar layers. At the plasmon resonance, a pronounced optimum is found for the extinction coefficient of the PV material. We also characterize the influence of the dielectric environment, PV layer thickness and nanoparticle shape, size and spatial distribution. The response of the system is close to that of a 2D effective medium layer, and subject to a 50% absorption limit when the dielectric environment around the 2D layer is symmetric. In this case, a plasmon induced absorption of about 40% is demonstrated in PV layers as thin as 10 nm, using silver nanoparticle arrays of only 1 nm effective thickness. In an asymmetric environment, the useful absorption may be increased significantly for the same layer thicknesses. These new types of essentially 2D solar cells are concluded to have a large potential for reducing solar electricity costs.

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