Fundamentals of Photovoltaics

Instructor:Masamba Kah

Course Summary

The aim of the course is to introduces the students to the fundamental concepts of photovoltaic effect.

It starts with study of sunlight distribution on the planet, creating an understanding of the terms used in the field of alternative energetics. Thorough explanation of the influence of solar radiation in space and on Earth is also given.

The solar energy conversion into electricity is based on the photoelectric effect of the materials used for the energy harvesting. The physics of this phenomenon is studied in terms of transitional structures, charge generation and separation in the semiconductor cell volume, carrier diffusion in materials, and charge collection.

Calculation examples for solar panel inclination as a function of geographical position and for various applications parameter are learnt in the course. The students will be able to use graphical representation of volt-ampere characteristics and will be introduced to the lab equipment used in the solar cell production and for quality control.

Having completed this course, the student will acquire fundamental base knowledge necessary for solar cell design using different materials with high efficiency coefficient as a function of solar cell positioning.

Course Format

Hours of lecture Hours of discussion Hours in laboratory Hours of independent study Total numbers of hours
64 0 122 216

Course Content

  1. Energy of the sun. Basic terms in photovoltaics.
  2. Optical characteristics of photoelectric converters
  3. Physics of PN junction
  4. Volt-Ampere characteristics of heterojunctions
  5. Diode. Physics and application.
  6. Schottky diode and ohmic contacts
  7. Solar energy conversion efficiency coefficient.
  8. Introduction to quality control
  9. Elements and components of solar energy systems
  10. Solar batteries, parameters and systems
  11. Crystal photoelectric converters
  12. Thin –film photoelectric converters
  13. Energy storage in solar energy systems
  14. Solar system construction. Installation and application.
  15. Future of solar energy


Primary textbooks:

  1. J.Patterson, B.Bailey. Solid-State Physics: Introduction to the Theory,2010
  2. A.Rockett. The Materials Science of Semiconductors, 2008

Additional textbooks:

  1. Trevor M. Letcher.Future Energy SECOND EDITION,2014
  2. Ali Sayigh.Comprehensive Renewable Energy,2012
  3. David W. Snoke.Solid State Physics: Essential Concep,2009
  4. L. Tsakalakos.Nanotechnology for Photovoltaics,2010


Class participation 10%
Homework assignments 20%
Midterm exam 20%
Final exam 50%