(401g) Nanomanufacturing of Multicomponent Plasmonic Nanogels and Interfaces with Broadband Solar Absorption Capability

Authors: 
Sureshkumar, R., Syracuse University
Cong, T., Syracuse University
Wani, S., Syracuse University
Paynter, P., Syracuse University


Thin film photovoltaics (PVs) offer much potential in cost-effective harvesting of solar energy through efficient use of the semiconductor materials, typically in the form of thin films of thickness 1-2 microns. However, the efficiency of single junction thin film PVs is significantly lower compared to their wafer-based counterparts due to poor light trapping by such devices. Improving the efficiency of thin-film PVs using plasmonic interfaces is an area of active research. A promising approach is the incorporation of a light trapping layer that consists of noble metal nanoparticles (NPs) onto the PV device [1-3]. Nanostructured plasmonic interfaces for this purpose have been fabricated by using lithography, vapor deposition, dewetting of thin metal films by ns and fs pulsed lasers and wet chemistry using self-assembled monolayers [4-13]. However, economical scale up and adaptation of such processes to fabricate interfaces with multiple species/shapes/sizes in a controllable and repeatable fashion are not straightforward.

In this work, we show how a nanostructured interface consisting of multiple metals and/or multiple shapes (e.g. sphere, rod) of a given metal can serve as a “broadband antenna” that would trap light in the UV-visible range. Specifically, a network of wormlike surfactant micelles (WLMs) in an aqueous solution is used as a template for producing stable multicomponent suspensions of Au and/or Ag NPs with desired optical properties. Such suspensions, hereafter referred to as plasmonic nanogels (PNGs), exhibit a long shelf life (~ weeks) and remarkable color uniformity. The structure of the PNGs was studied by small angle X-ray scattering, cryogenic transmission electron microscopy (Cryo-TEM) and rheological experiments. These studies, together with Molecular Dynamics simulations, support a mechanism of self-assembly in which the nanoparticles bridge the micelle fragments to form a stable double network. As evidenced by UV-visible transmission spectroscopy, the shape, size and concentration of the NPs can be varied to tune the optical properties of the PNGs in a way that they absorb radiation over a broadband of wavelengths. Multicomponent PNGs reported in this work have relatively low viscosity and low elastic modulus. Hence they are processable by conventional coating techniques. We employed spin- and dip-coating to produce multicomponent plasmonic interfaces. The structure and optical properties of such interfaces and their integration into PV devices will be discussed.

Acknowledgements: We acknowledge National Science Foundation grant CBET-1049454 for partial support of this research. Syracuse University has filed a provisional patent application based on the findings of this work.

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