Design of nanowire optical cavities as efficient photon absorbers

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

66 Citations (Scopus)


Recent investigations of semiconductor nanowires have provided strong evidence for enhanced light absorption, which has been attributed to nanowire structures functioning as optical cavities. Precise synthetic control of nanowire parameters including chemical composition and morphology has also led to dramatic modulation of absorption properties. Here we report finite-difference time-domain (FDTD) simulations for silicon (Si) nanowire cavities to elucidate the key factors that determine enhanced light absorption. The FDTD simulations revealed that a crystalline Si nanowire with an embedded 20-nm-thick amorphous Si shell yields 40% enhancement of absorption as compared to a homogeneous crystalline Si nanowire, under air-mass 1.5 global solar spectrum for wavelengths between 280 and 1000 nm. Such a large enhancement in absorption results from localization of several resonant modes within the amorphous Si shell. A nanowire with a rectangular cross section exhibited enhanced absorption at specific wavelengths with respect to a hexagonal nanowire. The pronounced absorption peaks were assigned to resonant modes with a high symmetry that red-shifted with increasing size of the rectangular nanowire. We extended our studies to investigate the optical properties of single- and multilayer arrays of these horizontally oriented nanowire building blocks. The absorption efficiency of a nanowire stack increases with the number of nanowire layers and was found to be greater than that of a bulk structure or even a single nanowire of equivalent thickness. Lastly, we found that a single-layer nanowire array preserves the structured absorption spectrum of a single nanowire and ascribed this result to a diffraction effect of the periodic nanowire array. The results from these provide insight into the design of nanowire optical cavities with tunable and enhanced light absorption and thus, could help enable the development of ultrathin solar cells and other nanoscale optoelectronic devices.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3707-3714
Number of pages8
JournalACS nano
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2014 Apr 22


  • core-shell nanowire
  • finite-difference time-domain simulations
  • nanoelectronic device
  • periodic structures
  • solar energy
  • subwavelength optical cavities

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Materials Science
  • General Engineering
  • General Physics and Astronomy


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