Plasmonic enhancement of amorphous silicon solar photovoltaic cells with hexagonal silver arrays made with nanosphere lithography
Nanosphere lithography (NSL) provides an opportunity for a low-cost and scalable method to optically engineer solar photovoltaic (PV) cells. For PV applications, NSL is widely used in rear contact scenarios to excite surface plasmon polariton and/or high order diffractions, however, the top contact scenarios using NSL are rare. In this paper a systematic simulation study is conducted to determine the capability of achieving efficiency enhancement in hydrogenated amorphous silicon (a-Si:H) solar cells using NSL as a top contact plasmonic optical enhancer. The study focuses on triangular prism and sphere arrays as they are the most commonly and easily acquired through direct deposition or low-temperature annealing, respectively. For optical enhancement, a characteristic absorption profile is generated and analyzed to determine the effects of size, shape and spacing of plasmonic structures compared to an un-enhanced reference cell. The factors affecting NSL-enhanced PV performance include absorption, shielding effects, diffraction, and scattering. In the triangular prism array, parasitic absorption of the silver particles proves to be problematic, and although it can be alleviated by increasing the particle spacing, no useful enhancement was observed in the triangular prism arrays that were simulated. Sphere arrays, on the other hand, have broad scattering cross-sections that create useful scattering fields at several sizes and spacing intervals. For the simulated sphere arrays the highest enhancement found was 7.4%, which was fabricated with a 250 nm radius nanosphere and a 50 nm silver thickness, followed by annealing in inert gas. These results are promising and provide a path towards the commercialization of plasmonic a-Si:H solar cells using NSL fabrication techniques.