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Microscale Dielectric Anti-reflection Coatings for Photovoltaics

We are developing two new classes of anti-reflection coatings (ARCs) based on textured dielectric materials: (i) a transparent, flexible paper technology that relies on optical scattering and reduced refractive index contrast between the air and semiconductor and (ii) silicon dioxide (SiO2) nanosphere arrays that rely on collective optical resonances. Both techniques improve solar cell absorption and ultimately yield high efficiency, low cost devices. For the transparent paper-based ARCs, we have recently shown that they improve solar cell efficiencies for all angles of incident illumination reducing the need for costly tracking of the sun's position. For a GaAs solar cell, we achieved a 24% improvement in the power conversion efficiency using this simple coating. Because the transparent paper is made from an earth abundant material (wood pulp) using an easy, inexpensive and scalable process, this type of ARC is an excellent candidate for future solar technologies. The coatings based on arrays of dielectric nanospheres also show excellent potential for inexpensive, high efficiency solar cells. The deposited monolayer of SiO2 nanospheres, having a diameter of 500 nm on a bare Si wafer, leads to a significant increase in light absorption and a higher expected current density based on initial simulations, on the order of 15-20%. With application on a Si solar cell containing a traditional anti-reflection coating (Si3N4 thin-film), an additional increase in the spectral current density is observed, 5% beyond what a typical commercial device would achieve. Due to the coupling between the spheres originated from Whispering Gallery Modes (WGMs) inside each nanosphere, the incident light is strongly coupled into the high-index absorbing material, leading to increased light absorption. Because the layer can be made with an easy, inexpensive, and scalable process, this anti-reflection coating is also an excellent candidate for replacing conventional technologies relying on complicated and expensive processes.

For further information please contact nikolai.zhitenev [at] (Nikolai Zhitenev), 301-975-6039.

Dongheon Ha

University of Maryland

Created May 9, 2016, Updated May 13, 2016