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Published February 14, 2011 | Published
Journal Article Open

Ray optical light trapping in silicon microwires: exceeding the 2n^2 intensity limit


We develop a ray optics model of a silicon wire array geometry in an attempt to understand the very strong absorption previously observed experimentally in these arrays. Our model successfully reproduces the n^2 ergodic limit for wire arrays in free space. Applying this model to a wire array on a Lambertian back reflector, we find an asymptotic increase in light trapping for low filling fractions. In this case, the Lambertian back reflector is acting as a wide acceptance angle concentrator, allowing the array to exceed the ergodic limit in the ray optics regime. While this leads to increased power per volume of silicon, it gives reduced power per unit area of wire array, owing to reduced silicon volume at low filling fractions. Upon comparison with silicon microwire experimental data, our ray optics model gives reasonable agreement with large wire arrays (4 μm radius), but poor agreement with small wire arrays (1 μm radius). This suggests that the very strong absorption observed in small wire arrays, which is not observed in large wire arrays, may be significantly due to wave optical effects.

Additional Information

© 2011 Optical Society of America. Received 22 Nov 2010; accepted 25 Jan 2011; published 4 Feb 2011. The authors thank M. Kelzenberg for provision of data and insightful discussion, D. Callahan for advice on the manuscript and E.Warmann for assistance with figures. This material is based upon work supported as part of the Light Matter Interaction in Energy Conversion, an Energy Frontier Research Center funded by the U. S. Department of Energy, Office of Science, Office of Basic Energy Sciences under Award Number DE-SC0001293.

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