MRS Bulletin

Photon Management for Photovoltaics

Photon Management for Photovoltaics

Coherent light trapping in thin-film photovoltaics

Shrestha Basu Mallicka1, Nicholas P. Sergeanta2, Mukul Agrawala3, Jung-Yong Leea4 and Peter Peumansa5

a1 Stanford University;

a2 Stanford University;

a3 Applied Materials, Santa Clara, CA;

a4 Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology;

a5 Stanford University;


Thin-film photovoltaic technologies have an enormous potential to reduce the cost of solar electricity. However, because thin photoactive layers are used, optical absorption is incomplete unless light-trapping strategies are employed. Since conventional light-trapping approaches based on geometric scattering are less effective in thin-film cells, coherent light-trapping approaches that exploit the wave nature of light are being explored to enhance optical absorption. In this article, we look at the various strategies for coherent light trapping in thin-film solar cells, including photonic crystals, metal nanostructures, and multilayer stacks. The suitability of a particular strategy depends on factors such as configuration of the solar cell, process compatibility, cost, desired angular response, and materials usage. We also discuss the physical limits of light trapping in thin films.

Key Words:

  • Si;
  • thin film;
  • photovoltaic;
  • nanostructure;
  • absorption