Awards Database

Scialog: Collaborative Teams - 2011

Hugh W. Hillhouse

Department of Chemical Engineering & The Institute of Molecular Engineering and Science, University of Washington

Janelle M. Leger

Western Washington University

Christine K Luscombe

Materials Science and Engineering, University of Washington

Novel Low-Loss Plasmonic Waveguides to Create HE PV from Ultra-Thin Organic and Low-Purity Earth Abundant Inorganic Layers

A plasmonic waveguide is a nanostructure—a very small object, smaller than the wavelength of a photon, the basic unit of light. When light hits certain types of nanostructures, photons are absorbed in a process that excites the motion of electrons at a metal surface. The result is a plasmon-polariton, or single photon coupled with a mode of oscillation of the electrons that are confined in the nanostructure. These plasmonpolaritons can therefore carry light energy in a structure that is much smaller than light itself. Plasmon-polaritons were first discovered at the interface of different nanostructured materials— dielectrics (material like glass or air) and noble metals (gold, silver), but these structures have so far not been able to carry light energy very far. Thin-film solar panels generate electric current when electrons in the material absorb photons and become excited enough to move through the film and create electricity. If these structures can be built to oscillate at the right frequencies, they can help the films absorb more light. The result: a supercharged solar panel.

Return to list