Solar Energy Laboratory, University of Southampton, UK

Photon management: from Planck to solar cells and beyond

The manipulation of light provides an attractive option to enhance the output of a solar cell. Optical concentration, antireflection coatings and textured surfaces with light trapping are just a few examples of technologies in routine use today. Recent advances in photonics and nanotechnology offer a range of additional tools that are being researched for application in the next generation of solar cells. Starting with a brief historical overview, we shall consider several concepts which are under discussion to improve the light capture at the nanoscale, including light injection into thin films by photon tunnelling, light harvesting energy transfer via the near-field dipole interaction, limitations to light trapping in subwavelength layers by diffraction, and the role of photon recycling in the operation of a solar cell.


Tom Markvart is Professor of Energy Conversion and the Director of the Solar Energy Laboratory at the University of Southampton. Since receiving his undergraduate and doctorate degrees in Mathematical Physics from the University of Birmingham, much of his research has focused on various aspects of photovoltaics, including solar cell degradation in space, stand-alone systems and utility integration issues as well as the fundamentals of photovoltaic conversion. Recent research at the Solar Energy Laboratory centres around theoretical and experimental work towards high-efficiency low-cost future generations of solar cells.