Renewable Energy Technologies

Modern life is sustained by energy, but we are remarkably inefficient in generating, distributing, and using energy. Students focusing on this topic will learn how modern electronics is transforming energy generation, distribution, and use.. For example, solar cells have become an important source of renewable energy. Highly efficient power electronic devices are reducing distribution losses in high voltage power lines, enabling the first generation of electric cars, and making wind turbines and robots/drones stable. Highly efficient light emitting diodes are displacing incandescent bulbs, and quantum-dot displays have dramatically reduced power consumption in displays.  Distributed temperature and humidity sensors coupled with machine learning are addressing a dominant source of energy consumption, how homes are heated and cooled. Finally, even at small scales, IoTs and implanted biomedical devices are being powered by energy harvested from vibrations, thermal gradients, and so on. 

Potential employers for students focusing on this topic include car companies developing electric vehicles,  semiconductor companies (e.g. Texas Instruments, ONSemi) that produce high-voltage semiconductor devices, utilities interested in renewable energy, and system integrators such as Google, Apple, Amazon, and so on.

Along with faculty advisors, each student will design his or her Plan of Study. Students with an interest in the physical side can acquire technical depth in semiconductor devices such as solar cells, light emitting diodes, high voltage/high power transistors, and energy harvesters.  They can acquire “breadth at the edges” by taking courses on the material science of large-bandgap semiconductor, electronic and power-electronics circuits and systems, and microcontrollers enabled by machine learning.  Students with an interest in the systems side can pursue a plan that provides technical depth in power electronic circuits and systems and breadth at the edges in power devices, semiconductor devices such as solar cells and LEDs. Students with a background in computer engineering may find opportunities in the design of embedded and distributed sensor-infused control systems.  

Relevant Courses

Each student will consult with faculty advisors and develop a Plan of Study tailored for their goals and background.  Some relevant courses for this technical topic are listed below.

Technical Concentration (12 credits)

ECE 59500 Primer on Semiconductor Fundamentals
ECE 59500 Theory and Practice of Solar Cells: A Cell to System Perspective
ECE 59500 Introduction to Power Electronics
ECE 51012 Electromechanics
ECE 61000 Energy Conversion
ECE 59500 Power Semiconductor Devices
ECE 43200 Elements of Power System Engineering
ECE 53200 Computational Methods for Power System Analysis
ECE 59500 Primer on Analysis of Experimental Data and Design of Experiments
ECE 59500 Time Domain Simulation and Optimization

Technical Breadth (6 credits)

ECE 51018 Hybrid vehicles
ECE 55900 VLSI Systems
ECE 59500 Introduction to Embedded systems
ECE 59500 Primer on Analysis of Experimental Data and Design of Experiments
ECE 60400 Electromagnetic Fields 
ECE 59500 Microfabrication Fundamentals
ECE 59500  MEMS Fabrication: Materials and Structures
ECE 59500 Primer on RF Design
ECE 59500 RF System Design
ECE 69500: Fundamentals of Nanoelectronics

Mathematics (3 credits)

MA 511 (Linear Algebra)
MA 514 Numerical Analysis

Ideas to Innovation Project and Skills Development (9 credits)

Several of the project ideas listed are relevant to this technical focus.

30 credits total