Invited paper

Applied Physics A

, Volume 105, Issue 2, pp 329-339

First online:

Nanophotonic light-trapping theory for solar cells

  • Zongfu YuAffiliated withGinzton Lab, Stanford University Email author 
  • , Aaswath RamanAffiliated withGinzton Lab, Stanford University
  • , Shanhui FanAffiliated withGinzton Lab, Stanford University

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Conventional light-trapping theory, based on a ray-optics approach, was developed for standard thick photovoltaic cells. The classical theory established an upper limit for possible absorption enhancement in this context and provided a design strategy for reaching this limit. This theory has become the foundation for light management in bulk silicon PV cells, and has had enormous influence on the optical design of solar cells in general. This theory, however, is not applicable in the nanophotonic regime. Here we develop a statistical temporal coupled-mode theory of light trapping based on a rigorous electromagnetic approach. Our theory reveals that the standard limit can be substantially surpassed when optical modes in the active layer are confined to deep-subwavelength scale, opening new avenues for highly efficient next-generation solar cells.