A biological structure in mammalian eyes has inspired a team headed by Silke Christiansen to design an inorganic counterpart for use in solar cells. With the help of conventional semiconductor processes, they etched micron-sized vertical funnels shoulder-to-shoulder in a silicon substrate. Using mathematical models and experiments, they tested how these kind of funnel arrays collect incident light and conduct it to the active layer of a silicon solar cell. Their result: this arrangement of funnels increases photo absorption by about 65% in a thin-film solar cell fitted with such an array and is reflected in considerably increased solar cell efficiency, among other improved parameters. This closely packed arrangement of cones has now inspired the team headed by Prof. Silke Christiansen to replicate something similar in silicon as a surface for solar cells and investigate its suitability for collecting and conducting light. Christiansen heads the Institute for Nanoarchitectures for Energy Conversion at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) and a research team at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light (MPL) – Germany..
The simulation shows how the concentration of light (red = high concentration, yellow= low concentration) rises in the funnels with declining diameter of the lower end of the funnel
“We’ve shown in this work that the light funnels absorbs considerably more light than other optical architectures tested over the last while”, says Sebastian Schmitt, one of the two first authors of the publication that has appeared in journal Nature Scientific Reports.