Date of Graduation

7-2015

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Engineering (PhD)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

Electrical Engineering

Advisor

Hameed A. Naseem

Committee Member

Samir M. EL-Ghazaly

Second Committee Member

Shui-Qing (Fisher) Yu

Third Committee Member

Surendra P. Singh

Fourth Committee Member

Reeta Vyas

Keywords

Applied sciences; Array geometry diversity; Diamond-like nanowire arrays; Fractal-like nanowire arrays; Nanowire arrays for photovoltaic applications; Photovoltaic solar cell; Silvaco nanowire-based solar cell simulation

Abstract

Solar energy has many advantages over conventional sources of energy. It is abundant, clean and sustainable. One way to convert solar energy directly into electrical energy is by using the photovoltaic solar cells (PVSC). Despite PVSC are becoming economically competitive, they still have high cost and low light to electricity conversion efficiency. Therefore, increasing the efficiency and reducing the cost are key elements for producing economically more competitive PVSC that would have significant impact on energy market and saving environment. A significant percentage of the PVSC cost is due to the materials cost. For that, thin films PVSC have been proposed which offer the benefits of the low amount of material and fabrication costs. Regrettably, thin film PVSC show poor light to electricity conversion efficiency because of many factors especially the high optical losses. To enhance conversion efficiency, numerous techniques have been proposed to reduce the optical losses and to enhance the absorption of light in thin film PVSC. One promising technique is the nanowire (NW) arrays in general and the silicon nanowire (SiNW) arrays in particular.

The purpose of this research is to introduce vertically aligned SiNW arrays with enhanced and broadband absorption covering the entire solar spectrum while simultaneously reducing the amount of material used. To this end, we apply new concept for designing SiNW arrays based on employing diversity of physical dimensions, especially radial diversity within certain lattice configurations. In order to study the interaction of light with SiNW arrays and compute their optical properties, electromagnetic numerical modeling is used. A commercial numerical electromagnetic solver software package, high frequency structure simulation (HFSS), is utilized to model the SiNW arrays and to study their optical properties.

We studied different geometries factors that affect the optical properties of SiNW arrays. Based on this study, we found that the optical properties of SiNW arrays are strongly affected by the radial diversity, the arrangement of SiNW in a lattice, and the configuration of such lattice. The proper selection of these parameters leads to broaden and enhance the light absorption of the SiNW arrays. Inspired by natural configurations, fractal geometry and diamond lattice structures, we introduced two lattice configurations: fractal-like array (FLA) that is inspired by fractal geometry, and diamond-like array (DLA) that is inspired by diamond crystal lattice structure. Optimization, using parametric analysis, of the introduced arrays parameters for the light absorption level and the amount of used material has been performed. Both of the introduced SiNW arrays show broadband, strong light absorption coupled with reduction of the amount of the used material. DLA in specific showed significantly enhanced absorption covering the entire solar spectrum of interest, where near-unity absorption spectrum could be achieved.

We studied the optical properties of complete PVSC devices that are based on SiNW array. Moreover, the performance of PVSC device that is based on SiNW has been investigated by using numerical modeling. SILVACO software package is used for performing the numerical simulation of the PVSC device performance, which can simultaneously handle the different coupled physical mechanisms contributing to the photovoltaic effect. The effect of the geometry of PVSC device that is based on SiNW is investigated, which shows that the geometry of such PVSC has a role in enhancing its electrical properties.

The outcome of this study introduces new SiNW array configurations that have enhanced optical properties using a low amount of material that can be utilized for producing higher efficiency thin film PVCS.

The overall conclusion of this work is that a weak absorption indirect band gap material, silicon, in the form of properly designed SiNW and SiNC arrays has the potentials to achieve near-unity ideal absorption spectrum using reduced amount of material, which can lead to produce new generation of lower cost and enhanced efficiency thin film PVSC.

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