An indium arsenide photovoltaic cell with gold front contacts is designed for use in a near-field thermophotovoltaic (NF-TPV) device consisting of millimeter-size surfaces separated by a nanosize vacuum gap. The device operates with a doped silicon radiator maintained at a temperature of 800 K. The architecture of the photovoltaic cell, including the emitter and base thicknesses, the doping level of the base, and the front contact grid parameters, is optimized to maximize NF-TPV power output. This is accomplished by solving radiation and charge transport in the cell via fluctuational electrodynamics and the minority charge carrier continuity equations, in addition to accounting for the shading losses due to the front contacts and additional series resistance losses introduced by the front contacts and the substrate. The results reveal that these additional loss mechanisms negatively affect NF-TPV performance in a non-negligible manner and that the maximum power output is a trade-off between shading losses and series resistance losses introduced by the front contacts. For instance, when the cell is optimized for a 1 × 1 mm2 device operating at a vacuum gap of 100 nm, the losses introduced by the front contacts reduce the maximum power output by a factor of ∼2.5 compared with the idealized case when no front contact grid is present. If the optimized grid for the 1 × 1 mm2 device is scaled up for a 5 × 5 mm2 device, the maximum power output is only increased by a factor of ∼1.08 with respect to the 1 × 1 mm2 case despite an increase of the surface area by a factor of 25. This work demonstrates that the photovoltaic cell in a NF-TPV device must be designed not only for a specific radiator temperature but also for a specific gap thickness and device surface area.
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