EXPERIMENTAL DEMONSTRATION OF LIGHT TRAPPING AND INTERNAL LIGHT SCATTERING IN SOLAR CELLS
Munday, Jeremy N
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Renewable energy technologies have long-term economic and environmental advantages over fossil fuels, and solar power is the most abundant renewable resource, supplying 120 PW over earth’s surface. In recent years the cost of photovoltaic modules has reached grid parity in many areas of the world, including much of the USA. A combination of economic and environmental factors has encouraged the adoption of solar technology and led to an annual growth rate in photovoltaic capacity of 76% in the US between 2010 and 2014. Despite the enormous growth of the solar energy industry, commercial unit efficiencies are still far below their theoretical limits. A push for thinner cells may reduce device cost and could potentially increase device performance. Fabricating thinner cells reduces bulk recombination, but at the cost of absorbing less light. This tradeoff generally benefits thinner devices due to reduced recombination. The effect continues up to a maximum efficiency where the benefit of reduced recombination is overwhelmed by the suppressed absorption. Light trapping allows the solar cell to circumvent this limitation and realize further performance gains (as well as continue cost reduction) from decreasing the device thickness. This thesis presents several advances in experimental characterization, theoretical modeling, and device applications for light trapping in thin-film solar cells. We begin by introducing light trapping strategies and discuss theoretical limits of light trapping in solar cells. This is followed by an overview of the equipment developed for light trapping characterization. Next we discuss our recent work measuring internal light scattering and a new model of scattering to predict the effects of dielectric nanoparticle back scatterers on thin-film device absorption. The new model is extended and generalized to arbitrary stacks of stratified media containing scattering structures. Finally, we investigate an application of these techniques using polymer dispersed liquid crystals to produce switchable solar windows. We show that these devices have the potential for self-powering.