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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012 Jan 31;109(5):1407-12. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1120415109. Epub 2012 Jan 19.

Coaxial multishell nanowires with high-quality electronic interfaces and tunable optical cavities for ultrathin photovoltaics.

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Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.


Silicon nanowires (NWs) could enable low-cost and efficient photovoltaics, though their performance has been limited by nonideal electrical characteristics and an inability to tune absorption properties. We overcome these limitations through controlled synthesis of a series of polymorphic core/multishell NWs with highly crystalline, hexagonally-faceted shells, and well-defined coaxial (p/n) and p/intrinsic/n (p/i/n) diode junctions. Designed 200-300 nm diameter p/i/n NW diodes exhibit ultralow leakage currents of approximately 1 fA, and open-circuit voltages and fill-factors up to 0.5 V and 73%, respectively, under one-sun illumination. Single-NW wavelength-dependent photocurrent measurements reveal size-tunable optical resonances, external quantum efficiencies greater than unity, and current densities double those for silicon films of comparable thickness. In addition, finite-difference-time-domain simulations for the measured NW structures agree quantitatively with the photocurrent measurements, and demonstrate that the optical resonances are due to Fabry-Perot and whispering-gallery cavity modes supported in the high-quality faceted nanostructures. Synthetically optimized NW devices achieve current densities of 17 mA/cm(2) and power-conversion efficiencies of 6%. Horizontal integration of multiple NWs demonstrates linear scaling of the absolute photocurrent with number of NWs, as well as retention of the high open-circuit voltages and short-circuit current densities measured for single NW devices. Notably, assembly of 2 NW elements into vertical stacks yields short-circuit current densities of 25 mA/cm(2) with a backside reflector, and simulations further show that such stacking represents an attractive approach for further enhancing performance with projected efficiencies of > 15% for 1.2 μm thick 5 NW stacks.

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