A low-cost and scalable approach to engineering absorption properties of silicon utilizing localized surface plasmon resonance of electroless plated silver nanoparticles


Metal nanoparticles (MNPs) are submicron scale entities made of pure metals or their compounds. The optical properties of these type of metals have been extensively studied for decades. So far, it is well understood that the change of the electromagnetic field around MNPs is dominated by the collection of induced oscillation of conduction electrons in metal nanoparticles, which is also known as localized surface plasmon resonance (LSPR). LSPR can generate strong scattering and absorption, resulting in an optical cross-section that is tens of times larger than the geometric cross-section of the particles. If the MNPs are placed on the interface between two dielectric materials, most of the scattered light will be prone to traveling toward the material with higher refractive index, offering a promising light trapping strategy for many dielectric materials. Consequently, Gold (Au) and Silver (Ag) nanoparticles have been widely used due to their good scattering efficiency. Au demonstrates good stability while Ag has better scattering efficiency. On this account, Ag is preferred.

Researchers from the University of Iowa: Bingtao Gao, Wenqi Duan, Aaron Silva, Alexander Walhof, Weitao Dai and led by Professor Fatima Toor developed a novel time- and cost-effective method of fabricating a light management structure based on Ag nanoparticles on the surface of planar Si substrates.. The researchers utilized a hydrofluoric acid (HF) and silver nitrate (AgNO3) based vacuum-free electroless plating method to deposit Ag NPs on the Si surface in a controlled manner. Typically vacuum-based, high-cost, and unscalable techniques, such as sputtering or e-beam evaporation are utilized to deposit Ag NPs. The researchers focused on utilizing localized surface plasmon resonance of Ag NPs in their endeavor to trap light into Si. Their work is currently published in the research journal, Optical Materials Express.

In their approach, a thin layer of dense Ag nanoparticles was deposited on the surface of Si substrate by electroless plating, followed by a water bath at 90 ˚C to form Ag nanoparticles of different sizes. With the help of a MATLAB-based analytical model on Mie theory, the size distribution of Ag nanoparticles for desired optical properties was determined. In the end, the fabricated Ag nanoparticles were exposed in laboratory environment for 2 weeks so as to study the effect of Ag degradation in atmosphere.

The authors reported that the reflection of the best performance sample decreased by up to 24.8% at a wavelength of 371 nm. In addition, characterization of samples exposed to the environment revealed that the LSPR response of unprotected Ag nanoparticles was markedly impaired after 14 days, while the LSPR response of aluminum oxide protected Ag nanoparticles was unchanged even after 90 days.

In summary, the study reported on a time- and cost- effective electroless plating method to fabricate randomly distributed Ag nanoparticles on the surface of Si which could reduce the reflection of Si in the visible spectrum. The authors highlighted that the aluminum oxide coated sample demonstrated a strong reflection reduction, exhibiting a reflection of as low as 7.6% at a wavelength of 662 nm and a weighted average spectral reflectance (Rave) of 12.2%. In an interview with Advances in Engineering, Professor Fatima Toor pointed out that their newly presented approach could be utilized in fabricating surface plasmonic materials with selective light absorption and in realizing light confinement on Si surfaces.

A low-cost and scalable approach to engineering absorption properties of silicon utilizing localized surface plasmon resonance of electroless plated silver nanoparticles - Advances in Engineering

About the author

Fatima Toor is an Associate Professor in the Electrical and Computer Engineering department with secondary appointments at the Physics and Astronomy department, Iowa Technology Institute, the Iowa-CREATES and MATFab facility at the University of Iowa. Her current research involves the design, fabrication, and testing of innovative photonic devices for applications in the health, environment, and energy industries. Dr. Toor obtained her Ph.D. and M.A. in electrical engineering from Princeton University, New Jersey. She received her B.S. degree with a double major in engineering sciences and physics from Smith College, Massachusetts.

Dr. Toor is a member of American Physical Society (APS), Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), SPIE the international society for optics and photonics, American Society of Laser Medicine and Surgery (ASLMS), and senior member of the Optical Society of America (OSA). Dr. Toor has published in many peer-reviewed scientific journals, presented at national and international scientific conferences and received several awards for academic excellence.

About the author

Bingtao Gao is pursuing his Ph.D. degree in the electrical and computer engineering department at the University of Iowa. His research activities involve design, simulation, fabrication, and testing of next generation optoelectronic and photonic devices.

He is the recipient of University of Iowa College of Engineering Dean’s Graduate Fellowship based on outstanding performance prior to UIowa. Bingtao received his MS degree in electrical engineering from University of Southern California and his BS degree in applied physics from University of Science and Technology of China.


Bingtao Gao, Wenqi Duan, Aaron D. Silva, Alexander C. Walhof, Weitao Dai, Fatima Toor. Light management on silicon utilizing localized surface plasmon resonance of electroless plated silver nanoparticles. Optical Materials Express, Volume 9, No. 9 / 1 September 2019.

Go To Optical Materials Express

Check Also

Transmission Expansion Planning Test System for AC-DC Hybrid Grid with High Variable Renewable Energy Penetration - Advances in Engineering

Testing the foreseeable renewable energy integration in future AC-DC Hybrid power networks