Rear reflectors for solar cells comprised of metal films with periodic arrays of nanoscale features on their surface can provide significantly enhanced light trapping in the absorber layer. However these structures can also result in significantly increased parasitic absorption into the metal layer at various wavelengths of light. Conversely these highly absorbing resonances can also coincide with the wavelengths which display the largest enhancement to the cell’s photocurrent. As such it is important to understand the underlying causes for such photocurrent enhancements and losses in the metal in order to design the optimum structure for use. 3D Finite-difference-time-domain simulations have been used to model a variety of structures and analyze the spatial distribution of absorption within different materials which make up the structure, the angles at which light will be scattered from the rear surface, as well as the idealized short circuit current from each structure integrated across the AM1.5 spectrum. These reveal the properties of these modes at resonant wavelengths at which absorption into both materials is enhanced. Despite the enhanced coupling of light into the metal at these wavelengths, the amount of light scattered back into the absorber at large angles is also significantly boosted. For a large variety of geometries, the impact of this large angle scattering dominates leading to significant increases to a cell’s photocurrent. Our simulations allow us to understand the contributions of multiple plasmonic effects occurring in such structures, allowing selection of the most suitable geometries to achieve large-angle scattering in a desired wavelength range.
The use of plasmonic structures to enhance light trapping in solar cells has recently been the focus of significant research, but these structures can be sensitive to various design parameters or require complicated fabrication processes. Nanosphere lithography can produce regular arrays of nanoscale features which could enhance absorption of light into thin films such as those used in novel solar cell designs. Finite-difference-time-domain simulations are used to model a variety of structures producible by this technique and compare them against the use of mirrors as rear reflectors. Through analysis of these simulations, sensitivity of device performance to parameters has been investigated. Variables considered include the feature size and array period, as well as metal and absorber materials selection and thickness. Improvements in idealized photocurrent density are calculated relative to the use of rear mirrors that are a standard for solar cells. The maximum simulated increase to photocurrent density was 3.58mA/cm2 or 21.61% for a 2μm thick Si cell relative to the case where a silver mirror is used as a rear reflector. From this, an initial set of design principles for such structures are developed and some avenues for further investigation are identified.