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Energy Express

  • Editor: Bernard Kippelen
  • Vol. 20, Iss. S5 — Sep. 10, 2012
  • pp: A729–A739
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Plasmonic nanograting design for inverted polymer solar cells

Inho Kim, Doo Seok Jeong, Taek Seong Lee, Wook Seong Lee, and Kyeong-Seok Lee  »View Author Affiliations


Optics Express, Vol. 20, Issue S5, pp. A729-A739 (2012)
http://dx.doi.org/10.1364/OE.20.00A729


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Abstract

Plasmonic nanostructures for effective light trapping in a variety of photovoltaics have been actively studied. Metallic nanograting structures are one of promising architectures. In this study, we investigated numerically absorption enhancement mechanisms in inverted polymer photovoltaics with one dimensional Ag nanograting in backcontact. An optical spacer layer of TiO2, which also may act as an electron transport layer, was introduced between nanograting pillars. Using a finite-difference-time domain method and performing a modal analysis, we explored correlations between absorption enhancements and dimensional parameters of nanograting such as period as well as height and width. The optimal design of nanograting for effective light trapping especially near optical band gap of an active layer was discussed, and 23% of absorption enhancement in a random polarization was demonstrated numerically with the optimally designed nanograting. In addition, the beneficial role of the optical spacer in plasmonic light trapping was also discussed.

© 2012 OSA

1. Introduction

A power conversion efficiency of organic solar cells has been growing rapidly over the last few years and recently reached 8.4% in a single junction and even higher in a double junction [1

1. Z. He, C. Zhong, X. Huang, W.-Y. Wong, H. Wu, L. Chen, S. Su, and Y. Cao, “Simultaneous Enhancement of Open-Circuit Voltage, Short-Circuit Current Density, and Fill Factor in Polymer Solar Cells,” Adv. Mater. (Deerfield Beach Fla.) 23(40), 4636–4643 (2011).

, 2

2. G. Li, R. Zhu, and Y. Yang, “Polymer solar cells,” Nat. Photonics 6(3), 153–161 (2012).

]. The active layers of most organic solar cells, however, are not thicker than 200 nm, which is not thick enough to harvest all the solar radiation below their optical band gap. This limitation in a thickness of the active layers is mostly due to short charge carrier diffusion lengths stemming from their poor charge carrier mobility. In this regard, a large number of light trapping technologies have been explored in efforts to boost the optical absorption enhancement in active layers of organic solar cells, especially near optical band gap, and a plasmonic approach, which can exceed the thermodynamic limit of 4n2, is one of the most promising schemes [3

3. D.-H. Ko, J. R. Tumbleston, A. Gadisa, M. Aryal, Y. Liu, R. Lopez, and E. T. Samulski, “Light-trapping nano-structures in organic photovoltaic cells,” J. Mater. Chem. 21(41), 16293–16303 (2011).

7

7. M.-G. Kang, T. Xu, H. J. Park, X. Luo, and L. J. Guo, “Efficiency Enhancement of Organic Solar Cells Using Transparent Plasmonic Ag Nanowire Electrodes,” Adv. Mater. (Deerfield Beach Fla.) 22(39), 4378–4383 (2010).

]. Plasmonic light trapping in organic solar cells has been realized by incorporating metal nanoparticles in buffer layers or active layers [8

8. G. D. Spyropoulos, M. M. Stylianakis, E. Stratakis, and E. Kymakis, “Organic bulk heterojunction photovoltaic devices with surfactant-free Au nanoparticles embedded in the active layer,” Appl. Phys. Lett. 100(21), 213904 (2012).

, 9

9. J.-L. Wu, F.-C. Chen, Y.-S. Hsiao, F.-C. Chien, P. Chen, C.-H. Kuo, M. H. Huang, and C.-S. Hsu, “Surface Plasmonic Effects of Metallic Nanoparticles on the Performance of Polymer Bulk Heterojunction Solar Cells,” ACS Nano 5(2), 959–967 (2011).

]. It was theoretically demonstrated that embedding metal nanoparticles in active layers leads to much greater absorption enhancements compared to the case with metal nanoparticles in buffer layers [10

10. W. E. I. Sha, W. C. H. Choy, Y. G. Liu, and W. C. Chew, “Near-field multiple scattering effects of plasmonic nanospheres embedded into thin-film organic solar cells,” Appl. Phys. Lett. 99(11), 113304 (2011).

]. In this case, metal nanoparticles act as a local field enhancer or a light scattering center depending on the size of metal nanoparticles [11

11. J.-Y. Lee and P. Peumans, “The origin of enhanced optical absorption in solar cells with metal nanoparticles embedded in the active layer,” Opt. Express 18(10), 10078–10087 (2010).

]. Larger metal nanoparticles tend to scatter light more dominantly than smaller ones. Embedding metallic nanograting on frontcontact or backcontact of solar cells is another promising approach; in this case, incident light scattered by nano-grating is coupled into waveguide modes or surface plasmon polariton (SPP) resulting in the absorption enhancement [12

12. H. A. Atwater and A. Polman, “Plasmonics for improved photovoltaic devices,” Nat. Mater. 9(3), 205–213 (2010).

15

15. W. E. I. Sha, W. C. H. Choy, and W. C. Chew, “Angular response of thin-film organic solar cells with periodic metal back nanostrips,” Opt. Lett. 36(4), 478–480 (2011).

]. In this architecture, nanograting provides momentum in the in-plane direction for scattered light to be coupled into propagation modes; thus, geometrical parameters of nanograting such as period, height and width must be carefully designed to achieve the maximized absorption enhancement. The absorption enhancement by plasmonic metallic nanograting structures in a thin film Si solar cell has been well studied by correlating propagation modes and design of nanograting [16

16. J. N. Munday and H. A. Atwater, “Large integrated absorption enhancement in plasmonic solar cells by combining metallic gratings and antireflection coatings,” Nano Lett. 11(6), 2195–2201 (2011).

, 17

17. W. Wang, S. Wu, K. Reinhardt, Y. Lu, and S. Chen, “Broadband light absorption enhancement in thin-film silicon solar cells,” Nano Lett. 10(6), 2012–2018 (2010).

]. Also, metallic nanograting on backcontact for polymer solar cells was numerically demonstrated to enhance absorption in active layers by excitation of surface plasmon polariton (SPP) or localization of surface plasmon resonance (LSPR) [18

18. A. Abass, H. Shen, P. Bienstman, and B. Maes, “Angle insensitive enhancement of organic solar cells using metallic gratings,” J. Appl. Phys. 109(2), 023111 (2011).

20

20. A. Baba, N. Aoki, K. Shinbo, K. Kato, and F. Kaneko, “Grating-coupled surface plasmon enhanced short-circuit current in organic thin-film photovoltaic cells,” ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces 3(6), 2080–2084 (2011).

]. However, there has been rare study on exploiting waveguide mode coupling for light trapping in polymer solar cells with active layers thinner than 200 nm.

2. Simulation model and methods

A three dimensional (3D) schematic and a two dimensional (2D) cross-section image of an inverted plasmonic polymer solar cell in this study are illustrated in Fig. 1
Fig. 1 A three dimensional schematic and a cross-sectional image of the inverted polymer solar cell.
. Silver nanograting is placed on top of substrate, and the troughs of nanograting are filled with TiO2. Sequentially, P3HT:PCBM and poly(3,4-ethylenedioxythiophene)/poly(styrenesulfonate) (PEDOT:PSS) are stacked. The media surrounding the cell is air. Conductive PEDOT:PSS serves as anode, and highly conductive metal grid may be deposited on top of anode to reduce series resistance of the solar cell. This ITO-free inverted solar cell is highly promising as low-cost applications, and numerous researches are on-going [24

24. J. Meiss, M. K. Riede, and K. Leo, “Towards efficient tin-doped indium oxide (ITO)-free inverted organic solar cells using metal cathodes,” Appl. Phys. Lett. 94(1), 013303 (2009).

, 25

25. M. Manceau, D. Angmo, M. Jørgensen, and F. C. Krebs, “ITO-free flexible polymer solar cells: From small model devices to roll-to-roll processed large modules,” Org. Electron. 12(4), 566–574 (2011).

].

3. Simulation results and discussion

The use of an optical spacer is one of the widely used approaches to achieve enhanced absorption in polymer solar cells [31

31. S. H. Park, A. Roy, S. Beaupre, S. Cho, N. Coates, J. S. Moon, D. Moses, M. Leclerc, K. Lee, and A. J. Heeger, “Bulk heterojunction solar cells with internal quantum efficiency approaching 100%,” Nat. Photonics 3(5), 297–302 (2009).

]. In this respect, we investigated the effect of the optical spacer thickness on absorption in active layers with varying the active layer thickness using the FDTD method. The number of absorbed photons in the active layers was calculated by integrating optical absorption over a solar radiation of AM (air mass) 1.5G at a light intensity of 100 mW/cm2. The number of absorbed photons as a function of the active layer thickness with varying the spacer thickness is shown in Fig. 2(a)
Fig. 2 (a) Number of absorbed photons in the active layers with varying TiO2 thickness. Open square denotes the case without an spacer layer. (b) The absorption enhancements of the cells with varying TiO2 thickness. Absorption enhancement is the normalized number of absorbed photons in the cell with TiO2 with reference to the cell without TiO2.
. Slight oscillations in the optical absorption with varying the active layer thickness are attributed to the optical interference effect. The significant reductions in the optical absorption are observed especially for the active layers thinner than 100 nm. In contrast, the absorption enhancements are observed for some thicknesses over 100 nm, but they do not exceed 5% as seen in Fig. 2(b). Thus, the sole use of an optical spacer cannot be an effective way to enhance the optical absorption in our device structures.

The blue and the red solid lines were calculated using a following analytical equation for the semi-infinite bilayer structures of Ag/P3HT:PCBM and Ag/TiO2, respectively [35

35. S. A. Maier, Plasmonics: Fundamentals and Applications (Springer, 2007).

].
kx=2πλ(εmεdεm+εd)
(2)
where kx is a propagation wave vector, 𝜆 is a wavelength of incident light, ɛm is a dielectric constant of Ag, and ɛd is a dielectric constant of P3HT:PCBM or TiO2. For all the above calculations, the Ag layer was assumed to be semi-infinite. In the wavelength range above 600 nm, only fundamental waveguide modes of TM0 and TE0 exist in TM and TE polarizations independent of presence of TiO2. In addition to the wavegiude modes, SPP modes in a TM polarization also are observed in a greater wavevector region than the waveguide modes.

The dispersion curve of the SPP mode for the case of the device structure without TiO2 lies very close to the blue line, while that with TiO2 moves toward a longer wavelength region and lies between the blue and the red line. Likewise, inclusion of the spacer layer, TiO2 leads to shift of dispersion curves toward longer wavelengths for the modes of TM0 and TE0. In the normal incidence of solar radiation, the in-plane momentum is provided only by nanograting, and thus, the propagation wavevector is determined by a period of nanograting by the equation:
kx=n2πp
(3)
where p is the period of nanograting, and n is the order of diffraction [17

17. W. Wang, S. Wu, K. Reinhardt, Y. Lu, and S. Chen, “Broadband light absorption enhancement in thin-film silicon solar cells,” Nano Lett. 10(6), 2012–2018 (2010).

]. Using Eq. (3), the dispersion curves are re-drawn as a function of the period of nano-grating in Fig. 3(b) for the first diffraction order (n = 1). This would be a guide map for the design of nanograting for maximization of absorption enhancements.

The waveguide modes and the SPP modes shown by their dispersion curves are confirmed by investigating their optical field profiles. Normalized field profiles in y-direction for the case without and with TiO2 were determined also using the Eigen mode solver and are shown in Fig. 3(c) and 3(d) for the wavelength of 650 nm. In all the modes, the optical fields are well confined within the multi-layers of the cell. The optical fields for the SPP modes are strongly amplified at the Ag interface and permeate into the active layer. However, they decay fast along the depth, and thus, if a thick TiO2 layer is inserted, only a weak tail of the SPP evanescent fields would be exploited for absorption enhancements, which limits a thickness of a spacer layer as seen in Fig. 3(d). The optical fields for the TE0 modes show a typical fundamental wave guide mode, where one maximum intensity peak is located in a wave guide [28

28. P. Yeh, Optical Waves in Layered Media (Wiley-Interscience, Singapore, 1988).

]. On the other hand, the TM0 modes for both cases are seemed to be coupled with a SPP mode in that the field distribution near the Ag interface is similar to that of the SPP mode. Interestingly, the presence of TiO2 enhances the optical field for the SPP mode at the Ag interface as well as that for the TM0 mode at the active layer of P3HT:PCBM. This is because the optical fields of SPP modes in lossless media (TiO2) is greatly enhanced over those in lossy media (P3HT:PCBM) [36

36. R. Dynich, A. Ponyavina, and V. Filippov, “Local field enhancement near spherical nanoparticles in absorbing media,” J. Appl. Spectrosc. 76(5), 705–710 (2009).

]. Therefore, the presence of an optical spacer with the optimal thickness would be beneficial for absorption enhancements. The excitation wavelengths of above TE0, TM0 and SPP modes rely on the periods of nanograting. Absorption spectra of a 150 nm thick P3HT:PCBM active layer vs. a period of nanograting in a TE polarization are shown in Fig. 4
Fig. 4 (a) Absorption spectra of the active layers in a TE polarization of incident light as a function of the period for the cell with nanograting of a 50 nm height and a 150 nm width. The white dashed and the dash-dotted lines denote the simulated dispersion curves for the cells with and without TiO2, respectively. (b) The normalized E-field intensity distributions at position 1 (nanograting period: 400nm, wavelength: 650 nm). (c) The normalized E-field intensity distributions at position 2 (nanograting period: 400 nm, wavelength: 678 nm).
.

In a TM polarization, the similar spectral broadenings in absorption are observed as shown in Fig. 5(a)
Fig. 5 (a) Absorption spectra of the active layers in a TM polarization of incident light as a function of period for the cell with nanograting of a 50 nm height and a 150 nm width. The white dashed and the dash-dotted lines denote the simulated dispersion curves of the SPP and the TM0 modes for the cells without and with TiO2, respectively. (b) The normalized H-field intensity distributions at position 1 (nanograting period: 350nm, wavelength: 701 nm). (c) The normalized H-field intensity distributions at position 2 (nanograting period: 500 nm, wavelength: 664 nm). (d) The normalized H-field intensity distributions at position 3 (nanograting period: 350 nm, wavelength: 636 nm).
. The dashed line is the dispersion curve for the SPP mode of the cell without TiO2, and the dash-dotted line is that for the TM0 mode of the cell with TiO2. The H-field intensity distributions at position 1 and 2 in Fig. 5(a) are shown in Fig. 5(b) and 5(c). The spectral broadenings in the long wavelength region ranging from 600 nm to 700 nm in a period between above 430 nm and below 320 nm are induced by the SPP mode and the TM0 mode. It is notable that the spectral broadenings in the same wavelength range are still observed in a period between 320 nm and 430 nm. The E-field distributions at position 3 in Fig. 5(a) reveal that both of the SPP mode and the TM0 mode exist in this period range.

The number of absorbed photons in the active layers under a solar radiation of AM1.5G at a light intensity of 100 mW/cm2 was calculated and is plotted in a period between 250 nm and 550 nm in Fig. 6
Fig. 6 The number of absorbed photons as a function of nanograting period for the cell with a 50 nm height and a 150 nm width in TE, TM, and random polarizations.
. For the periods shorter than 520 nm, more photons are absorbed in a TE polarization compared with a TM polarization. The maximum number of photons in a random polarization is absorbed in a period of 380 nm. As seen in Fig. 3(b), in this period range, the TE0 modes are excited near band gap of ~650 nm, and they make a main contribution to absorption enhancements in a random polarization. Likewise, in a TM polarization, in the same nanograting period the mixed mode of TM0 and SPP enhances absorption in the active layer near optical band gap of the active layer.

For further absorption enhancements, a height and a width of nanograting were varied independently, and absorption enhancements were calculated depending on polarizations (Fig. 7
Fig. 7 (a) absorption enhancements with varying a height and a width of nanograting in (a) TE, (b) TM and (c) random polarizations for the cells with a nanograting period of 380 nm.
). The absorption enhancement was calculated by normalization of the number of absorbed photons for the case with nanograting to that for the case without nanograting. A thickness of the TiO2 spacer layer is kept at the same as that of the nanograting height. Depending on polarizations, the optimal width and height for the maximum absorption enhancement vary by the multiple reasons: the shift of dispersion curves by varying a nanograting height, and the change in area ratios of the regions with and without TiO2 by varying a nanograting width, and the volume change by varying either of a height or width of nanograting. In a TE polarization, the absorption enhancement is the maximum of 29% at a height of 70 nm and a width of 250 nm, while in a TM polarization the maximum absorption of 18% is shown at shorter and narrower nanograting of a 60 nm height and a 175 nm height. As a result, in a random polarization the maximum absorption enhancement is 23% at a height of 60 nm and a width of 200 nm. As the width of Ag nanograting becomes wider in a TM polarization, the regions with TiO2 become narrower resulting in weakening of the TM0 mode which is excited in the TiO2 regions and in turn lower absorption enhancement. This would be a reason in a TM polarization the maximum absorption enhancement is observed at narrower nanograting than in a TE polarization. The optimal height and width of nanograting must change accordingly if a thickness of the active layer varies.

The dispersion curves for thinner active layers (100 nm, 75 nm) shift toward shorter wavelengths as shown in Fig. 8
Fig. 8 Absorption spectra of 100 nm thick active layers as a function of the nanograting period in (a) TE and (b) TM polarizations. Absorption spectra of 75 nm thick active layers as a function of the nanograting period in (c) TE and (d) TM polarizations. The dashed and dash-dotted lines are the dispersion curves of the TE0 modes for the case with and without TiO2 in (a), (c). The dashed line is the dispersion curve of the SPP mode for the case without TiO2 in (b), (d).
for both of polarizations. Similarly to the case with a 150 nm thick active layer, for both thicknesses of 100 nm and 75 nm two TE0 modes are observed in the range of wavelengths longer than 600 nm. However, a TM0 mode is not observed in a given period range above the wavelength of 600 nm. As a result, a spectral broadening of absorption is negligible in a TM polarization, while a significant absorption broadening is observed in a TE polarization. The optimal period for the maximum absorption shifts to the longer periods of 400 nm and 420 nm for a 100 nm thick and a 75 nm thick active layers, respectively.

Absorption spectra of the cell with a 150 nm thick active layer incorporating 380 nm period nanograting of a 50 nm height and a 200 nm width in TM and TE polarizations are compared with those of the cell without nanograting in Fig. 9(a)
Fig. 9 (a) Absorption spectra of 150 nm thick active layers for the case without nanograting and the case with nanograting in TE and TM polarizations. (b) The number of absorbed photons in TE, TM, and random polarizations, and absorption enhancements as a function of an active layer thickness. The red dashed line denotes 20% of the absorption enhancement.
. Remarkable absorption enhancements are observed above the wavelength of ~600 nm for both of polarizations. These enhancements can be identified to be attributed from the waveguide modes of the TE0 mode and the TM0 and the SPP mixed mode in TE and TM polarizations, respectively. One small peak is observed at the wavelength of 709 nm in a TM polarization, which originates from the SPP mode at the interface of Ag/P3HT:PCBM. The absorption enhancements of the plasmonic cell with various thicknesses from 50 nm up to 250 nm and the number of absorbed photons in the active layers were calculated and shown in Fig. 9(b). The same nanograting parameters used in Fig. 9(a) were used for the calculations. Thin active layers of 50 nm and 75 nm thicknesses show dramatic absorption enhancements with plasmonic nanograting. The absorption enhancements for the active layers thinner than 100 nm are mainly attributed to the weakened absorptions of the reference cells without Ag nanograting due to the insertion of the TiO2 layer as shown in Fig. 2(a). The active layers of 100 nm to 200 nm thicknesses exhibit around 20% of absorption enhancements, and 6% of absorption enhancements are observed even in a 250 nm thick active layer.

4. Conclusions

Acknowledgment

The authors thank Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST) for the financial support of this research (Grant No. 2E22733).

References and links

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Z. He, C. Zhong, X. Huang, W.-Y. Wong, H. Wu, L. Chen, S. Su, and Y. Cao, “Simultaneous Enhancement of Open-Circuit Voltage, Short-Circuit Current Density, and Fill Factor in Polymer Solar Cells,” Adv. Mater. (Deerfield Beach Fla.) 23(40), 4636–4643 (2011).

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M.-G. Kang, T. Xu, H. J. Park, X. Luo, and L. J. Guo, “Efficiency Enhancement of Organic Solar Cells Using Transparent Plasmonic Ag Nanowire Electrodes,” Adv. Mater. (Deerfield Beach Fla.) 22(39), 4378–4383 (2010).

8.

G. D. Spyropoulos, M. M. Stylianakis, E. Stratakis, and E. Kymakis, “Organic bulk heterojunction photovoltaic devices with surfactant-free Au nanoparticles embedded in the active layer,” Appl. Phys. Lett. 100(21), 213904 (2012).

9.

J.-L. Wu, F.-C. Chen, Y.-S. Hsiao, F.-C. Chien, P. Chen, C.-H. Kuo, M. H. Huang, and C.-S. Hsu, “Surface Plasmonic Effects of Metallic Nanoparticles on the Performance of Polymer Bulk Heterojunction Solar Cells,” ACS Nano 5(2), 959–967 (2011).

10.

W. E. I. Sha, W. C. H. Choy, Y. G. Liu, and W. C. Chew, “Near-field multiple scattering effects of plasmonic nanospheres embedded into thin-film organic solar cells,” Appl. Phys. Lett. 99(11), 113304 (2011).

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J.-Y. Lee and P. Peumans, “The origin of enhanced optical absorption in solar cells with metal nanoparticles embedded in the active layer,” Opt. Express 18(10), 10078–10087 (2010).

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H. A. Atwater and A. Polman, “Plasmonics for improved photovoltaic devices,” Nat. Mater. 9(3), 205–213 (2010).

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M. A. Green and S. Pillai, “Harnessing plasmonics for solar cells,” Nat. Photonics 6(3), 130–132 (2012).

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C. Min, J. Li, G. Veronis, J.-Y. Lee, S. Fan, and P. Peumans, “Enhancement of optical absorption in thin-film organic solar cells through the excitation of plasmonic modes in metallic gratings,” Appl. Phys. Lett. 96(13), 133302 (2010).

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W. E. I. Sha, W. C. H. Choy, and W. C. Chew, “Angular response of thin-film organic solar cells with periodic metal back nanostrips,” Opt. Lett. 36(4), 478–480 (2011).

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J. N. Munday and H. A. Atwater, “Large integrated absorption enhancement in plasmonic solar cells by combining metallic gratings and antireflection coatings,” Nano Lett. 11(6), 2195–2201 (2011).

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OCIS Codes
(040.5350) Detectors : Photovoltaic
(250.5403) Optoelectronics : Plasmonics

ToC Category:
Photovoltaics

History
Original Manuscript: July 11, 2012
Revised Manuscript: August 20, 2012
Manuscript Accepted: August 21, 2012
Published: August 24, 2012

Citation
Inho Kim, Doo Seok Jeong, Taek Seong Lee, Wook Seong Lee, and Kyeong-Seok Lee, "Plasmonic nanograting design for inverted polymer solar cells," Opt. Express 20, A729-A739 (2012)
http://www.opticsinfobase.org/oe/abstract.cfm?URI=oe-20-S5-A729


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References

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