Modification of photovoltaic devices with metallic nanoparticles is expected to be one of the key methods for development of high performance devices as a future energy source. To clarify the mechanism of photocurrent changes induced by surface plasmon resonances of metal nanoparticles, we measured near-field photocurrent excitation images for a GaAs photodiode modified with gold nanospheres (diameter 100 nm) with a spatial resolution higher than 100 nm. The relationship between the photovoltaic efficiency and the plasmons of the gold nanospheres was investigated through the measurements of incident wavelength and polarization dependence of the near-field photocurrent images. Isolated nanospheres deposited on the GaAs active surface caused local photocurrent suppressions at the plasmon resonance wavelengths. In the case of assemblies (dimers and trimers) of the spheres, a remarkable decrease of photocurrent at the gap site between the spheres was observed. From the results, it turned out that the enhanced optical fields created via the plasmons on the metal nanostructures do not improve the photovoltaic efficiency and that forward scattering of photons by the gold nanoparticles is considered to be more important than the enhanced field effect at the particles for the GaAs photovoltaic device studied.
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