Unit 1: Fundamentals of PV Devices, Systems


Overview of world energy, climate challenges. Solar resource availability, insolation, atmospheric absorption, direct and diffuse radiation, angular dependence, seasonal variability. Options for harnessing solar energy (thermal, catalysis, combined technologies, photovoltaic), and their respective current and projected costs/potential, compared to traditional sources. Centralized vs. decentralized power. Dispatchable vs. non-dispatchable power.

Background assessment quiz (not for grade)

Charge excitation and conduction

How light is converted to electricity. Direct and indirect semiconductor bandgaps. Optical properties of semiconductors. Introduction to intrinsic, doped semiconductors, conjugated polymers. Minority carrier mobility, lifetime, diffusion length. Charge excitation in non-semiconducting materials. Conduction, dispersive hopping.

Reading concept quiz

Charge separation

How voltage, current are formed. Minority-carrier devices: semiconductor pn-junctions. IV curves. Majority-carrier devices (organics). Quantum-size effects of charge separation.

Reading concept quiz

Homework #1 out


Charge collection, and the solar cell device

Metallization. Solar cell device architectures. Common limitations of efficiency, short-circuit current, fill factor, open-circuit voltage.

Reading concept quiz

Homework #1 in

Lab: assessing the efficiency of a solar cell device, and performance loss mechanisms, simulating solar cell efficiencies using "commercial" software package PC1D

Quiz 1

Unit 2: Commercial and Pre-Commercial PV Technologies

Commercial technologies, part 1: crystalline silicon solar cells

Feedstock: silicon refining, Siemens, fluidized bed reactor, metallurgical route, novel concepts.

Crystal growth: ingot silicon, ribbon and sheet silicon. Wafering.

Cell fabrication: methods, architectures, concepts. History, state-of-the-art. Emerging trends, cutting-edge technology. Role of innovation.

Class project team formation

Commercial technologies, part 2

Thin Films: thin film silicon (incl. amorphous, SiGe, micromorph, tandem cells), cadmium telluride, copper indium gallium diselenide. Precursors. Deposition processes and technologies.

Other technologies: concentrator devices and materials, heterojunction devices, photovoltaic thermal.

Reading concept quiz

Developing technologies

Organic PV. Organic/Inorganic hybrid systems (dye-sensitized, nano hybrid). Inorganic nanostructured materials, incl. quantum dots, nanostructured devices, and layered structures. Biological and biomimetic systems. Novel thin film materials, multiband semiconductors, hot carrier devices, spectrum splitting.

Quiz 2
Unit 3: Cross-Cutting Themes in PV

Photoelectric conversion efficiency

Theoretical efficiency limits. Efficiency loss mechanisms. Optical losses, recombination losses, surface recombination velocity, series and parallel resistance (shunts). Specific loss mechanisms in each technology class. Evaluation of loss mechanisms, common characterization tools.

Homework #2 in

Lab: assessment of PV device loss mechanisms


Modules, systems, and reliability

Module manufacturing: encapsulation materials, availability, trends.

Systems: grid-tied and stand-alone, tracking and non-tracking. System components, including balance of systems components. Design criteria, tradeoffs, costs. Building integration, BIPV. System integration. Scaling, and integration into the power grid. Appropriate technology selection. Life cycle analysis. The energy storage challenge.

Failure: failure modes in stationary and tracking systems, accelerated testing, field testing, service and warranty contracts.


Cost and manufacturability

Cost: building a cost model, key drivers of cost, substitution economics.

Manufacturing: environments, models, operations, process yield, handling. Predicting shortages and bottlenecks.

Scaling: the multi-GW plant. Production technologies.

Guest lecture from VC community

Price, markets, and subsidies

Price and markets: what sets price (and profit), energy future and overview of renewable energy sources, economics and market dynamics. Fluctuations in supply and demand, drivers for oversupply/undersupply conditions, and what this means for profits.

Subsidies: Why subsidize? how much to subsidize? role of PV in the global energy market.

Homework #3 in

Guest lecture from local solar energy start-up


Technology prospectus

Completion, assessment of PV technology prospectus.

Homework #4 in

Factory tour — Evergreen solar, Marlborough, MA

Presentations day 1

13 Student project presentations Presentations day 2