Rolf Koenenkamp

Date of Award

Summer 8-5-2014

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Applied Physics



Physical Description

1 online resource (xi, 101 pages)


Nanostructured materials, Reflectance, Solar cells -- Materials, Solar cells -- Design and construction, Zinc oxide -- Optical properties




Solar cells have extrinsic losses from a variety of sources which can be minimized by optimization of the design and fabrication processes. Reflection from the front surface is one such loss mechanism and has been managed in the past with the usage of planar antireflection coatings. While effective, these coatings are each limited to a single wavelength of light and do not account for varying incident angles of the incoming light source. Three-dimensional nanostructures have shown the ability to inhibit reflection for differing wavelengths and angles of incidence. Nanocones were modeled and show a broadband, multi-angled reflectance decrease due to an effective grading of the index.

Finite element models were created to simulate incident light on a zinc oxide nanocone textured silicon substrate. Zinc oxide is advantageous for its ease of production, benign nature, and refractive index matching to the air source region and silicon substrate. Reflectance plots were computed as functions of incident angle and wavelength of light and compared with planar and quintic refractive index profile models. The quintic profile model exhibits nearly optimum reflection minimization and is thus used as a benchmark. Physical quantities, including height, width, density, and orientation were varied in order to minimize the reflectance. A quasi-random nanocone unit cell was modeled to better mimic laboratory results. The model was comprised of 10 nanocones with differing structure and simulated a larger substrate by usage of periodic boundary conditions. The simulated reflectance shows approximately a 50 percent decrease when compared with a planar model. When a seed layer is added, simulating a layer of non-textured zinc oxide, on which the nanocones are grown, the reflectance shows a fourfold decrease when compared with planar models. At angles of incidence higher than 75 degrees, the nanocone model outperformed the quintic model.

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