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Published on-line at 06:12:56 PM on Friday, October 19th, 2012

Photon management in two-dimensional disordered media

Matteo Burresi, Francesco Riboli, Kevin Vynck, Diederik Wiersma on NATURE MATERIALS (NAT MATER)

When light interacts with disordered thin-films, a high absorption efficiency is obtained, in a wide spectrum of frequencies and at large angles of incidence.

The main challenge of the renewable energy industry is the production of more and more efficient, lighter and cheaper solar cells. The novel strategy developed in this paper by Dr. Kevin Vynck, Dr. Matteo Burresi, Dr. Francesco Riboli and Prof. Diederik Wiersma just aims to these three objectives, taking advantage of the exotic behavior that light exhibits when it interacts with matter.

In thin-film cells a significant part of the solar radiation is absorbed by the material, so the photovoltaic efficiency is severely limited, explains Dr. Vynck in the photonics group at LENS, the European Laboratory for Non-linear Spectroscopy. So far one of the most promising strategies to increase the efficiency of absorption of a thin film has involved an ordered structure with holes of size of the order of hundreds of nanometers, in order to trap light incident on the material. The problem is that building such periodic structures over large areas is difficult and very expensive, especially if you think of large-scale applications.

The novelty of the paper published in the current issue of Nature Materials consists precisely in a change of approach to the problem, as pointed out by Diederik Wiersma, director of LENS and coordinator of the photonics group. We simulated the behavior of light when it interacts with a disordered structure, produced by randomly holing the surface of a very thin film of amorphous silicon. We demonstrated that the combination of effects such as optical coherence, interference and localization allows to obtain a high light absorption efficiency, in a wide spectrum of frequencies and also at large angles of incidence. A potentially very cost effective way to produce solar cells.

A strategy that comes from the study of fundamental physical phenomena, but interesting also from a potentially winning business point of view. Indeed, the group of Prof. Wiersma is establishing a spin-off, Lambda Energy, to explore the possibility of industrial applications of these findings.

  • Title:
  • Photon management in two-dimensional disordered media
  • Authors:
  • Vynck, K Burresi, M Riboli, F Wiersma, DS
  • Source:
  • Vol. na, Issue: na, pages: na-na, Article Number: na, OCT 7 2012, DOI: 10.1038/nmat3442