Tuning light absorption in core/shell silicon nanowire photovoltaic devices through morphological design

Sun Kyung Kim, Robert W. Day, James F. Cahoon, Thomas J. Kempa, Kyung Deok Song, Hong Gyu Park, Charles M. Lieber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

220 Citations (Scopus)


Subwavelength diameter semiconductor nanowires can support optical resonances with anomalously large absorption cross sections, and thus tailoring these resonances to specific frequencies could enable a number of nanophotonic applications. Here, we report the design and synthesis of core/shell p-type/intrinsic/n-type (p/i/n) Si nanowires (NWs) with different sizes and cross-sectional morphologies as well as measurement and simulation of photocurrent spectra from single-NW devices fabricated from these NW building blocks. Approximately hexagonal cross-section p/i/n coaxial NWs of various diameters (170-380 nm) were controllably synthesized by changing the Au catalyst diameter, which determines core diameter, as well as shell deposition time, which determines shell thickness. Measured polarization-resolved photocurrent spectra exhibit well-defined diameter-dependent peaks. The corresponding external quantum efficiency (EQE) spectra calculated from these data show good quantitative agreement with finite-difference time-domain (FDTD) simulations and allow assignment of the observed peaks to Fabry-Perot, whispering-gallery, and complex high-order resonant absorption modes. This comparison revealed a systematic red-shift of equivalent modes as a function of increasing NW diameter and a progressive increase in the number of resonances. In addition, tuning shell synthetic conditions to enable enhanced growth on select facets yielded NWs with approximately rectangular cross sections; analysis of transmission electron microscopy and scanning electron microscopy images demonstrate that growth of the n-type shell at 860 °C in the presence of phosphine leads to enhanced relative Si growth rates on the four {113} facets. Notably, polarization-resolved photocurrent spectra demonstrate that at longer wavelengths the rectangular cross-section NWs have narrow and significantly larger amplitude peaks with respect to similar size hexagonal NWs. A rectangular NW with a diameter of 260 nm yields a dominant mode centered at 570 nm with near-unity EQE in the transverse-electric polarized spectrum. Quantitative comparisons with FDTD simulations demonstrate that these new peaks arise from cavity modes with high symmetry that conform to the cross-sectional morphology of the rectangular NW, resulting in low optical loss of the mode. The ability to modulate absorption with changes in nanoscale morphology by controlled synthesis represents a promising route for developing new photovoltaic and optoelectronic devices.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4971-4976
Number of pages6
JournalNano Letters
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2012 Sep 12


  • FDTD simulations
  • Facet-selective growth
  • coaxial p/i/n nanostructure
  • nanoelectronic device
  • optical resonances
  • solar energy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Bioengineering
  • Chemistry(all)
  • Materials Science(all)
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanical Engineering


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