Nano-engineered metal dielectric photonic crystals (MDPhC) are promising structures for an ideal selective absorber/emitter (broadband and wide-angle solar energy absorption, high-temperature stability, and scalable fabrication).
By utilizing their unique light-trapping properties in photo-catalytic reactions, drastically improved solar-to-fuel efficiency is expected to be achievable. A key component to this success would be the efficient generation and transport of hot electrons into catalytic layers of MDPhC devices.
We are carrying out theoretical studies of metal/dielectric interfaces to effectively transmit hot electrons to catalytic semiconductors. We are studying energetic, geometrical, electronic, and optical properties of a variety of basic component systems found in the MDPhC structures. For this, we use DFT based techniques to study optical properties of bulk and thin-film systems related to the broad absorption of solar energy. For instance, we are exploring the effects of mechanical strain on spectral properties of metals, and metal/oxide interfaces.
In collaboration with experts in the fabrication of MDPhC devices at MechE@MIT, we are investigating structural atomistic details, and energy for various likely reconstructions in Oxides, and Oxide/Metal interfaces, which are relevant for generation and transport of charge carriers.