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Diffractive optics for thin-film silicon solar cells

Schuster, Christian (2015) Diffractive optics for thin-film silicon solar cells. PhD thesis, University of York.

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Abstract

Thin-film silicon solar cells have the potential to convert sunlight into electricity at high efficiency, low cost and without generating pollutants. However, they need to become more competitive with conventional energy technologies by increasing their efficiency. One of the key efficiency limitations of using thin silicon absorber materials relates to the optical loss of low-energy photons, because the absorption coefficient of silicon decreases strongly for these low-energy photons in the red and near-infrared, such that the absorption length becomes longer than the absorber layer thickness. If, in contrast, the incident light was redirected and trapped into the plane of the silicon slab, a thin-film could absorb as much light as a thick layer. Diffractive textures can not only efficiently scatter the low-energy photons, but are also able to suppress the reflection of the incident sunlight. In order to take advantage of the full benefits that textures can offer, I outline a simple layer transfer technique that allows the structuring of a thin-film independently from both sides, and use absorption measurements to show that structuring on both sides is favourable compared to structuring on one side only. I also introduce a figure-of-merit that can objectively and quantitatively assess the benefit of the structuring itself, which allows me to benchmark state-of-the-art proposals and to deduce some important design rules. Minimising the parasitic losses, for example, is of critical importance, as the desired scattering properties are directly proportional to these losses. To study the impact of parasitics, I quantify the useful absorption enhancement of two different light trapping mechanisms, i.e. diffractive vs plasmonic, based on a fair and simple experimental comparison. The experiment demonstrates that diffractive light-trapping is a better choice for photovoltaic applications, because plasmonic structures accumulate the parasitical losses by multiple interactions with the trapped light. The results of this thesis therefore highlight the importance of diffractive structures as an effective way of trapping more light in a thinner solar cell device, and will help to define guidelines for new designs that may overcome the 30% power conversion efficiency limit.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: Diffractive structures, light-trapping, thin-film silicon solar cells, photovoltaic
Academic Units: The University of York > Physics (York)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.647746
Depositing User: Dr Christian Stefano Schuster
Date Deposited: 02 Jun 2015 15:53
Last Modified: 08 Sep 2016 13:32
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/9083

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