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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2010 Oct 12;107(41):17491-6. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1008296107. Epub 2010 Sep 27.

Fundamental limit of nanophotonic light trapping in solar cells.

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Ginzton Laboratory, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305, USA.


Establishing the fundamental limit of nanophotonic light-trapping schemes is of paramount importance and is becoming increasingly urgent for current solar cell research. The standard theory of light trapping demonstrated that absorption enhancement in a medium cannot exceed a factor of 4n(2)/sin(2)θ, where n is the refractive index of the active layer, and θ is the angle of the emission cone in the medium surrounding the cell. This theory, however, is not applicable in the nanophotonic regime. Here we develop a statistical temporal coupled-mode theory of light trapping based on a rigorous electromagnetic approach. Our theory reveals that the conventional limit can be substantially surpassed when optical modes exhibit deep-subwavelength-scale field confinement, opening new avenues for highly efficient next-generation solar cells.

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