Numerical and experimental investigation of light trapping effect of nanostructured diatom frustules

Xiangfan Chen, Chen Wang, Evan Baker, Cheng Sun*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


Recent advances in nanophotonic light-trapping technologies offer promising solutions in developing high-efficiency thin-film solar cells. However, the cost-effective scalable manufacturing of those rationally designed nanophotonic structures remains a critical challenge. In contrast, diatoms, the most common type of phytoplankton found in nature, may offer a very attractive solution. Diatoms exhibit high solar energy harvesting efficiency due to their frustules (i.e., hard porous cell wall made of silica) possessing remarkable hierarchical micro-/nano-scaled features optimized for the photosynthetic process through millions of years of evolution. Here we report numerical and experimental studies to investigate the light-trapping characteristic of diatom frustule. Rigorous coupled wave analysis (RCWA) and finite-difference time-domain (FDTD) methods are employed to investigate the light-trapping characteristics of the diatom frustules. In simulation, placing the diatom frustules on the surface of the light-absorption materials is found to strongly enhance the optical absorption over the visible spectrum. The absorption spectra are also measured experimentally and the results are in good agreement with numerical simulations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number11977
JournalScientific reports
StatePublished - Jul 9 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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