December 1, 2008

Plasmons promise more solar power

Cut a nanoscopically narrow groove in a metal surface beneath a nanoscopically thin sheet of silicon and you can boost the amount of sunlight the silicon absorbs.

The metal groove converts light to surface plasmons, which are vibrations in the pools of electrons on the metal's surface. Silicon absorbs plasmons more efficiently than it absorbs light.

One way to improve the mediocre performance of thin-film solar cells, which are less expensive than traditional solar cells, is to increase the amount of light they absorb. The light-to-plasmon conversion also broadens the angle of light the silicon absorbs, which should increase the amount of daylight silicon solar cells capture.

Research paper:
Plasmonic Nanostructure Design for Efficient Light Coupling into Solar Cells
Nano Letters, published online November 14, 2008

Researchers' homepage:
Atwater Research Group, California Institute of Technology

Related stories and briefs:
Silvery solar cells -- related research

Back to ERN December 1/8, 2008



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