Research ArticleAPPLIED OPTICS

Self-assembly of highly efficient, broadband plasmonic absorbers for solar steam generation

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Science Advances  08 Apr 2016:
Vol. 2, no. 4, e1501227
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1501227


The study of ideal absorbers, which can efficiently absorb light over a broad range of wavelengths, is of fundamental importance, as well as critical for many applications from solar steam generation and thermophotovoltaics to light/thermal detectors. As a result of recent advances in plasmonics, plasmonic absorbers have attracted a lot of attention. However, the performance and scalability of these absorbers, predominantly fabricated by the top-down approach, need to be further improved to enable widespread applications. We report a plasmonic absorber which can enable an average measured absorbance of ~99% across the wavelengths from 400 nm to 10 μm, the most efficient and broadband plasmonic absorber reported to date. The absorber is fabricated through self-assembly of metallic nanoparticles onto a nanoporous template by a one-step deposition process. Because of its efficient light absorption, strong field enhancement, and porous structures, which together enable not only efficient solar absorption but also significant local heating and continuous stream flow, plasmonic absorber–based solar steam generation has over 90% efficiency under solar irradiation of only 4-sun intensity (4 kW m−2). The pronounced light absorption effect coupled with the high-throughput self-assembly process could lead toward large-scale manufacturing of other nanophotonic structures and devices.

  • Plasmonics
  • self-assembly
  • solar steam
  • absorber

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