Enhanced light absorption in simulations of ultra-thin ZnO layers structured by a SiO2 photonic glass

by Coridan, Robert H.; Norman, Mya A.; Mehrabi, Hamed

Hierarchically organized nanostructures are often employed to improve the energy conversion efficiency of photovoltaic and photoelectrochemical cells. Ultra-thin semiconductors can improve the internal carrier collection yield in materials with poor carrier lifetimes by reducing the characteristic length scales of collection. However, reducing the dimension of the light absorber requires strategies to increase absorption and the overall photogeneration when the material is to be used in broadband solar energy conversion applications. Here, we explore a strategy for improving light absorption in nanometer-scale, ultra-thin film ZnO layers by integrating them into a SiO2 colloidal crystal-based photonic glass. We use three-dimensional finite-difference electromagnetic simulations to study the local and total absorption improvements on composite films of close-packed, randomized colloidal structures coated with a thin layer of ZnO. These simulations show that the near band-gap absorption in the ZnO coating is dependent on the degree of vacancies in the colloidal crystal that templates the photonic glass. With these results, we show that disordered, defective colloidal composites can potentially be used to fabricate nanostructured photoelectrodes based on ultra-thin semiconductor layers with improved light absorption characteristics.

Canadian Journal of Chemistry-Revue Canadienne de Chimie
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1480-3291; 0008-4042