Metallic and dielectric nanostructures have highly tunable resonances that have been used to increase light absorption in a variety of photovoltaic materials and device structures. Metal nanowires have also emerged as a promising candidate for high-performance transparent electrodes for local contacts. In this Letter we propose combining these electrical and optical functions. As a first step, we use rigorous solutions to Maxwell’s equations to demonstrate theoretically extreme absorption in semiconductor thin films wrapped around metal nanowires. We show that there are two key principles underlying this extraordinary light trapping effect: (1) maximizing the absorption of each individual resonance by ensuring it is critically coupled and (2) increasing the total number of degenerate resonances. Inserting a metal core into a semiconductor nanowire creates such a degeneracy: polarization-dependent Mie resonances are transformed into polarization-independent Fabry-Pérot-like resonances. We demonstrate that, by reducing the polarization sensitivity and increasing the number of critically coupled modes, this hybrid coaxial nanowire geometry substantially outperforms solid semiconducting nanowires, even though the semiconductor volume is significantly reduced. These results suggest that metal nanowires with semiconductor shells might be ideal building blocks for photovoltaic and solar fuel applications.

Nano Lett.
Nanoscale Solar Cells

Mann, S., & Garnett, E. (2013). Extreme light absorption in thin semiconductor films wrapped around metal nanowires. Nano Lett., 13(7), 3173–3178. doi:10.1021/nl401179h