Absorption of light in a single vertical nanowire and a nanowire array

Nicklas Anttu*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


Both a single III-V semiconductor nanowire and an array of such nanowires have shown promise for solar cell applications. However, the correspondence between the optical properties of the single nanowire and the nanowire array has not been studied. Here, we perform electromagnetic modeling of InP nanowires to study this relationship. We find that a single nanowire can show at an absorption peak, a remarkably high absorption cross-section that is more than 50 times the geometrical cross-section. With optimization of the diameter of the single nanowire, the short-circuit current density is 30 times higher than in a bulk solar cell. With such a strong absorption, we predict an apparent efficiency >500% for the single nanowire solar cell. In contrast, we show that an efficient nanowire array solar cell cannot rely on strong absorption just through the absorption peak. Instead, the nanowires need to be packed rather closely to enhance the absorption of the full solar spectrum. At the optimum diameter for the nanowire array, neighboring nanowires compete strongly for absorption of incident photons at the absorption peak, which limits the absorption per nanowire by a factor of 18. As a result, the single InP nanowire is optimized at a diameter of 110 nm while the nanowires in the array are optimized at a considerably larger diameter of 180 nm. Importantly, we show analytically the coupling efficiency of incident light into the fundamental HE11 guided mode and consecutive absorption of the mode in the nanowires. With that analysis, we explain that a single nanowire shows two different absorption pathways - one through coupling into the guided mode and another by coupling into the nanowire through the sidewall. This analytical analysis also shows at which period the neighboring nanowires in an array start to compete for absorption of incident photons.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104004
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 18 Jan 2019
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • absorption
  • III-V semiconductor nanowire
  • optics modeling
  • solar cell


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