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Establishing the fundamental limit of nanophotonic light-trapping schemes is of paramount importance and is becoming increasingly urgent for current solar cell research. The standard theory of light trapping demonstrated that absorption enhancement in a medium cannot exceed a factor of 4n2 / sin2 θ, where n is the refractive index of the active layer, and θ is the angle of the emission cone in the medium surrounding the cell. This theory, however, is not applicable in the nanophotonic regime. Here we develop a statistical temporal coupled-mode theory of light trapping based on a rigorous electromagnetic approach. Our theory reveals that the standard limit can be substantially surpassed when optical modes in the active layer are confined to deep-subwavelength scale, opening new avenues for highly efficient next-generation solar cells.
Date of Conference: 20-25 June 2010