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Photonic design principles for ultrahigh-efficiency photovoltaics

For decades, solar-cell efficiencies have remained below the thermodynamic limits. However, new approaches to light management that systematically minimize thermodynamic losses will enable ultrahigh efficiencies previously considered impossible.

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Figure 1: Solar-cell characteristics.
Figure 2: Light-management architectures for reaching ultrahigh efficiency.
Figure 3: Multi-junction solar cells.
Figure 4: Scalable inexpensive large-area layer transfer and nanofabrication techniques.
Figure 5: Thermodynamic losses in solar-energy conversion.


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The authors acknowledge helpful discussions with Eli Yablonovitch, John Rogers, Paul Braun, Nathan S. Lewis, Ralph Nuzzo and Enrique Canovas. The Caltech portion of this work was supported by DOE Office of Basic Energy Sciences 'Light–Material Interactions in Energy Conversion' Energy Frontier Research Center under grant DE-SC0001293. Work at AMOLF is part of the research programme of FOM which is financially supported by NWO; it is also supported by the European Research Council. This work is also part of the Global Climate and Energy Project (GCEP).

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Correspondence to Albert Polman or Harry A. Atwater.

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Polman, A., Atwater, H. Photonic design principles for ultrahigh-efficiency photovoltaics. Nature Mater 11, 174–177 (2012).

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