The effect of dielectric spacer thickness on surface plasmon enhanced solar cells for front and rear side depositions

S. Pillai*, F. J. Beck, K. R. Catchpole, Z. Ouyang, M. A. Green

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

128 Citations (Scopus)


The excitation of surface plasmons on metallic nanoparticles has the potential to significantly improve the performance of solar cells, in particular thin-film structures. In this article, we investigate the effect of the dielectric spacer layer thickness on the photocurrent enhancement of 2 μm thick, thin-film poly-Si on glass solar cells, due to random arrays of self-assembled Ag nanoparticles deposited on the front or the rear of the cells. We report a strong asymmetry in the external quantum efficiency (EQE) of the cell for front and rear located particles for different spacer thicknesses, which is attributed to differences in the scattering behavior of the nanoparticles. We find that for random arrays, with spectrally broad scattering resonances, the strength of the driving field and the coupling efficiency are more important for light trapping than the resonance wavelength. For particles located on the front of the cells it is desirable to have a thin dielectric spacer layer to enhance the scattering from the Ag nanoparticles. Additionally, light trapping provided by the random sized particles on the front can overcome suppression of light transmitted in the visible wavelength regions for thin layers of Si, to result in overall EQE enhancements. However, for particles deposited on the rear it is more beneficial to have the particles as close to the Si substrate as possible to increase both the scattering and the coupling efficiency.

Original languageEnglish
Article number073105
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Applied Physics
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2011
Externally publishedYes


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