Background: Elongated nanostructures, such as nanowires, have attracted significant attention for application in silicon-based solar cells. The high aspect ratio and characteristic radial junction configuration can lead to higher device performance, by increasing light absorption and, at the same time, improving the collection efficiency of photo-generated charge carriers. This work investigates the performance of ultra-thin solar cells characterised by nanowire arrays on a crystalline silicon bulk. Results: Proof-of-concept devices on a p-type mono-crystalline silicon wafer were manufactured and compared to flat references, showing improved absorption of light, while the final 11.8% (best-device) efficiency was hindered by sub-optimal passivation of the nanowire array. A modelling analysis of the optical performance of the proposed solar cell architecture was also carried out. Results showed that nanowires act as resonators, amplifying interference resonances and exciting additional wave-guided modes. The optimisation of the array geometrical dimensions highlighted a strong dependence of absorption on the nanowire cross section, a weaker effect of the nanowire height and good resilience for angles of incidence of light up to 60°. Conclusion: The presence of a nanowire array increases the optical performance of ultra-thin crystalline silicon solar cells in a wide range of illumination conditions, by exciting resonances inside the absorber layer. However, passivation of nanowires is critical to further improve the efficiency of such devices.
- Optical modelling