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Nano Lett. 2010 Feb 10;10(2):439-45. doi: 10.1021/nl9036627.

Semiconductor nanowire optical antenna solar absorbers.

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  • 1Geballe Laboratory for Advanced Materials, Stanford University, California 94305, USA.

Abstract

Photovoltaic (PV) cells can serve as a virtually unlimited clean source of energy by converting sunlight into electrical power. Their importance is reflected in the tireless efforts that have been devoted to improving the electrical and structural properties of PV materials. More recently, photon management (PM) has emerged as a powerful additional means to boost energy conversion efficiencies. Here, we demonstrate an entirely new PM strategy that capitalizes on strong broad band optical antenna effects in one-dimensional semiconductor nanostructures to dramatically enhance absorption of sunlight. We show that the absorption of sunlight in Si nanowires (Si NWs) can be significantly enhanced over the bulk. The NW's optical properties also naturally give rise to an improved angular response. We propose that by patterning the silicon layer in a thin film PV cell into an array of NWs, one can boost the absorption for solar radiation by 25% while utilizing less than half of the semiconductor material (250% increase in the light absorption per unit volume of material). These results significantly advance our understanding of the way sunlight is absorbed by one-dimensional semiconductor nanostructures and provide a clear, intuitive guidance for the design of efficient NW solar cells. The presented approach is universal to any semiconductor and a wide range of nanostructures; as such, it provides a new PV platform technology.

PMID:
20078065
[PubMed]
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