Metal nanoparticles are efficient antennas for light. If embedded in a semiconductor material, they can enhance light absorption in the semiconductor, due to the strong plasmonic near-field coupling. We use numerical simulations to calculate the absorption enhancement in the semiconductor using Ag nanoparticles with diameters in the range 5-60 nm for crystalline Si, amorphous Si, a polymer blend, and Fe2O3. We study single Ag particles in a 100x100x100 nm semiconductor volume, as well as periodic arrays with 100 nm pitch. We find that in all cases Ohmic dissipation in the metal is a major absorption factor. In crystalline Si, while Ag nanoparticles cause a 5-fold enhancement of the absorbance in the weakly absorbing near-bandgap spectral range, Ohmic losses in the metal dominate the absorption. We conclude crystalline Si cannot be sensitized with Ag nanoparticles in a practical way. Similar results are found for Fe2O3. The absorbance in the polymer blend can be enhanced by up to 100% using Ag nanoparticles, at the expense of strong additional absorption by Ohmic losses. Amorphous Si cannot be sensitized with Ag nanoparticles due to the mismatch between the plasmon resonance and the bandgap of a-Si. By using sensitization with Ag nanoparticles the thickness of some semiconductor materials can be reduced while keeping the same absorbance, which has benefits for materials with short carrier diffusion lengths. Scattering mechanisms by plasmonic nanoparticles that are beneficial for enhanced light trapping in solar cells are not considered in this paper

Opt. Express
Photonic Materials

Spinelli, P., & Polman, A. (2012). Prospects of near-field plasmonic absorption enhancement in semiconductor materials using embedded Ag nanoparticles. Opt. Express, 20(S5 Energy Express), 641–654. doi:10.1364/OE.20.00A641