Our nano-photovoltaics research program

  • Spectrum splitting metasurfaces in perovskite/Si tandem solar cells, coloured PV (Verena Neder with ECN.TNO, Floris Uleman)
  • Light trapping in ultrathin CZTS solar cells and Si/III-V tandem solar cells (Stefan Tabernig with UNSW, Andrea Cordaro with Fraunhofer ISE)
  • Novel spectrum splitting, downconversion, LSC architectures (Tom Veeken with Bruno Ehrler’s group, Kyra Orbons)
  • Metal nanowire selective contacts on Si heterojunction solar cells (Paula Bronsveld, Mike Shen, guests from ECN)

Evolution of our PV research program

Plasmonic solar cells

In 2008, our group, together with the group of Harry Atwater at Caltech, started research on the use of nanophotonic concepts to enhance the efficiency and reduce the cost of photovoltaic energy conversion. Our key initial paper Improved red response in thin-film a-Si solar cells with soft-imprinted plasmonic backreflectors was published in 2009. In 2010 we published a perspective/review paper on the many prospects of nanophotonic design for improved photovoltaics Plasmonics for improved photovoltaic devices, also highlighted in an Editorial article. This paper defined the research field of “Light management for photovoltaics” that took off in many labs worldwide. With over 5000 citations it is the most cited paper published in Nature Materials since 2010. in 2012 Albert Polman and Harry Atwater were awarded the ENI Renewable Energy Award for pioneering research on light management in photovoltaic materials.


Mie resonant light scattering, demonstrator devices

After our initial work on plasmonic solar cells we introduced dielectric Mie scatterers for resonant light coupling and trapping in solar cells. Our 2012 paper Omnidirectional antireflection coating based on subwavelength surface Mie resonators was the first to introduce this concept to improve solar cells.  We wrote a perspective on Photonic design principles for ultrahigh-efficiency photovoltaics in Nature Materials (2012).  We exploited our insights in plasmonic light scattering to create Transparent conducting silver nanowire networks. We expanded our research to create demonstrator devices and improved the efficiency of solar cells based on a wide range of materials: thin-film silicon, organic and CIGS solar cells, as well as silicon heterojunction solar cells. In another collaborative project with the group of Atwater at Caltech, we discovered Plasmoelectric potentials in metal nanostructures, published in Science in 2013.  We promoted the use of Nanophotonics for shrinking light-based technology in a review in Science in 2016 and reviewed the state-of-the art in light management for PV in Photovoltaic materials – present efficiencies and future challenges in Science in 2017.

 Black silicon       Ultrathin nanopatterned CIGS solar cell       Si solar cells      

Novel concepts for large-area application, startups

With many fundamental insights developed, we started developing novel concepts that could help the introduction of nano-photovoltaics in practical applications. With Marc Verschuuren (Philips Research) we developed Large-area nanoimprint by substrate conformal imprint lithography (SCIL) to create nanopatterns on full-size solar cells. Marc, together with colleagues, has started a company, SCIL Nanomprint Solutions, that has brought the new technique on the market, with the first instruments sold to customers in 2017. In 2015 we developed a roadmap “Nanopatterning for Photovoltaics” together with ASML. Together with FEI/Thermo Fisher and Delmic we developed cathodoluminescence (CL) lifetime imaging as a novel technique to characterize photovoltaic nanomaterials. The new instrument was commercialized by Delmic, a start-up company co-founded by Albert Polman in 2012. Delmic has sold many CL instruments to customers allover the world.


Knowledge transfer

Technology transfer from academic research to real-world applications is one of the hardest things to do for a research group. It can take many years before an idea finds its way to the market and PV is no exception: the PERL technology that is now introduced in PV manufacturing was invented in the 1990s. To speed up knowledge transfer we have teamed up with the Energy Research Center of the Netherlands (now ECN part of TNO). Together with ECN we apply novel concepts developed in our group to solar cells that are made using industrial processes – where possible. Together with ECN we created Efficient colored silicon solar modules using integrated resonant dielectric nanoscatterers. This new concept won the SolarPower R&D Award at the EU-PVSEC conference in 2017. We  developed  Soft-imprinted Ag nanowire hybrid electrodes on industrial silicon heterojunction solar cells made by ECN. We participate in the COMPASS and RADAR programs that bring together academic and industrial research and technology development in the Netherlands. To facilitate knowledge transfer between our group and ECN, three ECN staff members (Wim Sinke, Paula Bronsveld, and Mike Ah Sen) have part-time appointments at AMOLF. To further expand knowledge transfer opportunities, Albert Polman spent a sabbatical at the School of Photovoltaics and Renewable Energy Engineering at the University of New South Wales (Sydney), the institute that initiated much of present-day industrial Si PV technology, and we appointed a joint PhD student. We also collaborate with the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems (Freiburg) on ultra-high efficiency tandem solar cells. By setting up this broad network of collaborations with PV technology institutes we transfer relevant technology from our lab to applications in PV technology.


National PV research networks

To expand the effect of PV research we initiated several PV research programs in which other principal investigators participated.

  • 2008: FOM program Nanophotovoltaics (with AMOLF group leaders Polman, Bonn and Gomez Rivas, 2.1 M€, 6 researchers)
  • 2012: FOM Focus group Light Management in new Photovoltaic Materials (LMPV, appointing three new group leaders Erik Garnett, Bruno Ehrler and Esther Alarcon Llado at AMOLF: 15 M€; 30-35 researchers)
  • 2017: SOLARLab: Dutch national PV network, bringing together all 35 Principal Investigators at Dutch academic institutions, ECN and TNO.
  • 2018: SOLAR-every surface generates renewable energy: Application for the National Science Agenda (10 ME) with all Dutch PV groups.

With these national initiatives we maximize the impact of academic research and optimize knowledge transfer to industrial applications.


We have developed a Theatre lecture performance “Voor niets gaat de zon op – “The sun rises for free”, to promote photovoltaics to the general public.

Our publications on nano-photovoltaics

: joint papers with ECN;        joint papers with Philips/SCIL nanoimprint solutions