Cermet coatings based on nanoparticles of Au or Ag in a stable dielectric matrix provide a combination of spectral-selectivity and microstructural stability at elevated temperatures. The nanoparticles provide an absorption peak due to their localized surface plasmon resonance and the dielectric matrix provides red-shifting and intrinsic absorption from defects. The matrix and two separated cermet layers combined add mechanical support, greater thermal stability and extra absorptance. The coatings may be prepared by magnetron sputtering. They have solar absorptance ranging between 91% and 97% with low thermal emittance making them suitable for application in solar thermal conversion installations.
Titanium nitride is a golden-colored semiconductor with metallic optical properties. It is already widely used in room temperature spectrally-selective coatings. In contrast, aluminum nitride is a relatively wide-band gap, non-metallic material. Both nitrides have exceptional thermal stability, to over 1000 °C, but are susceptible to oxidation. We will show here that composite coatings consisting of these materials and their complex oxides have considerable potential for spectrally-selective applications, including at elevated temperatures. In particular, we examine the metastable materials produced by magnetron sputtering. The effective dielectric functions of these materials can be tuned over a wide range by manipulation of their microstructure. This provides a strategy to assemble materials with tunable dielectric functions using a 'bottom-up' approach. The results are compared to those achievable by conventional, 'top-down', planar optical stacks comprised of alternating layers of TiN<sub>x</sub> and AlN.