Education & Outreach > Short Courses > Short Course Catalog > Materials Processing > Photovoltaics: The Engineering, Technology and Application of Solar Cells (2 days)

Photovoltaics: The Engineering, Technology and Application of Solar Cells (2 days)

Photovoltaics: The Engineering, Technology and Application of Solar Cells (2 days)

Course Objectives

This is a two-day course but either day can be taken separately as desired. However, a review of the first day material is not provided during the second day.

  • Understand the basic operation of photovoltaics (solar cells)
  • Gain an understanding of the state of the art and current primary research focuses in all common and emerging photovoltaic technologies
  • Learn how solar cell operation is modeled to diagnose and optimize devices
  • Gain an overview of methods to produce solar cells and some of the problems and solutions in manufacturing the devices
  • Understand how photovoltaics fit in to future energy generation schemes
  • Learn the general aspects of how solar cell materials and devices are characterized

Course Description

Day 1: Fundamentals

The first day introduces the broad aspects of photoelectric solar cells, properly known as photovoltaics (or PV for short). The basic issues related to energy and how PV fits into the potential generating technologies are reviewed briefly and examples of actual installations are given. A description of how PV power systems are designed is included. A general introduction to the electrical and optical theory of the devices is provided including analysis of ideal and non-ideal device performance, reflection, transmission, carrier generation, and other aspects of the optical properties. Consideration will include issues related to transparent contacts, antireflection coatings, and tunnel junctions for connection in multilayer devices. Students will be introduced to the AMPS and SCAPS modeling tools and useful spreadsheet-based approaches to modeling the devices. A brief overview of the physics of semiconductor defects will be presented and how defects affect solar cell performance will be included.

Different PV technologies are reviewed including concentrating and non-concentrating systems, single and multijunction devices, thin film and bulk devices, thermophotovoltaics, and novel concepts such as photoelectrochemical cells, organic PV, and quantum dot structures. Inorganic polycrystalline thin film technologies considered will include amorphous Si, CdTe, and CuInSe2 and related compounds. Multijunction high-efficiency concentrator design will also be discussed. The current status of each of these technologies and some of the issues and potential limitations to them are discussed. Persons planning to develop a research program in PV and wishing to familiarize themselves with the field should find this section of the course a useful basis upon which to plan their program.

If time permits on the first day a case study of expected daily power production in the central U.S. (central Illinois specifically) will be presented. This illustrates the variations with time of day and sun/clouds. The example includes a discussion of how to project the levellized cost of ownership of the system per kWh of power produced. Some discussion of subsidies and other issues related to the evaluation of system cost will be given.

Day 2: Manufacturing and Characterization

Selected topics related to the manufacture of the devices will be presented including a review of detailed examples, as available. Students should realize that information proprietary to individual manufacturers can not be disclosed so the presentation is general with specific examples and case studies from individual manufacturers available as those organizations have been willing to share information in a public forum.

Deposition techniques discussed will include Czochralsky crystal growth, casting and other specialized bulk Si growth techniques, evaporation, closed-space sublimation, solid-phase reaction, sputtering, and others. Case studies in issues related to the manufacture of two thin film technologies, a-Si and CuInSe2 will be discussed as examples. Cost, market, materials availability, and yield issues will be considered. The course will also discuss space-based vs. terrestrial applications and options and issues related to flexible PV technologies.

The remainder of the second day will be devoted to characterization of PV devices including the application of microchemical, microstructural, optical, and electronic methods. Descriptions of the basic operating principles of each technique will be provided along with a discussion of how that technique is used in characterizing PV devices. Examples of results will be provided for each technique. More extensive topics related to specific technologies and issues will be provided on a question-and-answer basis.

Course Materials

Course Notes

Course Cost: $1120

Who should attend?

Students, scientists and engineers with little or no experience in photovoltaics. Those with a history of work in the field will also profit from the descriptions of device modeling and the range of approaches used. They will also get a sense of the current state of the art across all technologies. The course is not currently designed to educate system installers because that is a topic for an electrician and is relatively generic. System installers may gain some useful background concerning the devices they are installing. Questions concerning practical installation of systems can be answered but students should not expect to come away prepared to install their own system.


Angus Rockett
Head for Department of Metallurgical and Materials Engineering, Colorado School of Mines