ECE 59500 - Theory and Practice of Solar Cells: A Cell to System Perspective


This is a 5-week course.

Course Details

Lecture Hours: 3 Credits: 1

Areas of Specialization:

  • Microelectronics and Nanotechnology

Counts as:

  • EE Elective
  • CMPE Special Content Elective

Normally Offered:

Every other Spring


ECE 30500 or ECE 60600 or ECE 69500A (Primer on Semiconductor Fundamentals) or equivalent

Requisites by Topic:

Basic understanding of semiconductor fundamentals as covered in the first 5 weeks of ECE 30500 or ECE 60600 or ECE 69500A (Primer on Semiconductor Fundamentals)

Catalog Description:

This course is designed for students from all disciplines in engineering and science seeking to learn about how solar cells function, how they are connected into modules, how modules are assembled into panels, and how panels are fielded in solar farms. The basics of solar farms are covered as well as the reliability of solar cells. The course is at the advanced undergraduate / beginning graduate student level.

Required Text(s):

  1. Physics of Solar Cells: An Atoms-to-Farm Perspective (draft manuscript) , ISBN No. M. A. Alam

Recommended Text(s):

  1. Photovoltaics Fundamentals, Technology, and Practice , Konrad Mertens , Wiley , 2018 , ISBN No. 13: 978-1119401049
  2. Solar Cells: Operating Principles, Technology and System Applications , Martin A. Green , Prentice-Hall , 1986 , ISBN No. 13: 978-0138222703

Learning Outcomes

A student who successfully fulfills the course requirements will have demonstrated:

  • an ability to estimate the maximum efficiency of ideal and nonideal solar cells.
  • an understanding of the operation of a solar cell and of how solar cells are interconnected in panels.
  • an ability to estimate the cost and performance of grid-connected and stand along PV systems.
  • an understanding of the key reliability issues for photovoltaic systems.

Lecture Outline:

Week Lecture Topics
1 Course Introduction; Overview: the sun, earth, and the solar cell; Maximum efficiency of ideal and nonideal solar cells
2-3 Physics of Silicon and thin-film solar cells- Introduction to the five parameter model; Gridding and system integration of solar cells
4 Design of PV systems: Theoretical and practical considerations for grid-connected solar farms and stand alone systems
5 Four key reliability issues of solar farms

Assessment Method:

Exams, quizzes and project