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: 3.49). 08/2009; 17(14):11944-57. DOI: 10.1364/OE.17.011944
Source: PubMed


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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    • "One extremely promising way for the further development of solar cells is based on the use of nanomaterials: silicon nanowires [1], nanostructuration of active materials [2]. Among all those structures, the use of plasmonic metallic nanostructures has led to many studies [3]. Such nanostructures act as nanoantennas [4] to trap the light. "
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    • "Therefore , the surface of the MNPs should be coated with an insulating shell [25] [35] having a thickness on the order of the nanometer. This was not considered in the present studies, but would be important in the construction of actual solar cell devices [36] [37]. Such shell reduces the intensity of the MNPs' scattered near-field, but can still allow them to produce significant absorption enhancement in their surrounding medium [19] "
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    • "Recently several researchers have demonstrated that the insertion of metallic (in particular aurum, silver and copper) nanoparticles within or near PV layers may improve significantly the efficiency of thin solar cells. This effect is due to plasmon resonances123456, which lead to increased electron-hole generation in the close PV layer. In this paper the authors optimize the geometry of a thin solar cell by employing an FEM (Finite Element Method) code to compute the light scattering from the solar cell and suitable genetic algorithms (GAs) for the optimization of the cell geometry. "
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