Effective light management is imperative in maintaining high efficiencies as photovoltaic devices become thinner. We demonstrate a simple and effective method of enhancing light trapping in solar cells with thin absorber layers by tuning localized surface plasmons in arrays of Agnanoparticles. By redshifting the surface plasmon resonances by up to 200 nm, through the modification of the local dielectric environment of the particles, we can increase the optical absorption in an underlying Si wafer fivefold at a wavelength of 1100 nm and enhance the external quantum efficiency of thin Si solar cells by a factor of 2.3 at this wavelength where transmission losses are prevalent. Additionally, by locating the nanoparticles on the rear of the solar cells, we can avoid absorption losses below the resonance wavelength due to interference effects, while still allowing long wavelength light to be coupled into the cell. Results from numerical simulations support the experimental findings and show that the fraction of light backscattered into the cell by nanoparticles located on the rear is comparable to the forward scattering effects of particles on the front. Using nanoparticle self-assembly methods and dielectrics commonly used in photovoltaic fabrication this technology is relevant for application to large-scale photovoltaic devices.

J. Appl. Phys.
Photonic Materials

Beck, F.J, Polman, A, & Catchpole, K.R. (2009). Tunable light trapping for solar cells using localised surface plasmons. J. Appl. Phys., 105(Article number: 114310), 1–7. doi:10.1063/1.3140609