Enhanced photogeneration of carriers in a semiconductor via coupling across a nonisothermal nanoscale vacuum gap

DiMatteo, R. S.; Greiff, P.; Finberg, S. L.; Young-Waithe, K. A.; Choy, H. K. H.; Masaki, M. M.; Fonstad, C. G.
September 2001
Applied Physics Letters;9/17/2001, Vol. 79 Issue 12, p1894
Academic Journal
Enhanced generation of carriers when a thermophotovoltaic cell is placed in submicron proximity to a heated surface is demonstrated using custom-designed InAs photodiodes and special silicon-based heater chips produced using microelectromechanical system techniques. The short-circuit current of the photocells is shown to increase sharply (up to fivefold) when the spacing between the heater and photodiode surfaces is reduced, while at the same time, the heater temperature decreases, consistent with increased radiative transfer between the two surfaces. By varying the spacing sinusoidally (at up to 1 kHz), it is demonstrated that the increase in the short-circuit current occurs in phase with the decrease in separation, thereby ruling out thermal effects. It is argued that the increase in short-circuit current is due to increased evanescent coupling of blackbody radiation from the hot surface to the cold photocell, consistent with recent theoretical predictions. The demonstration of this effect is the initial step in the development of a class of energy conversion devices. © 2001 American Institute of Physics.


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