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Fundamentals of Photovoltaics


Credit Hours:


Learning Objective:

A student who successfully fulfills the course requirements will have demonstrated:
  1. An understanding of the operation of solar cells and of how solar cells are interconnected in panels.
  2. An ability to estimate the maximum efficiency of ideal and nonideal solar cells.
  3. An understanding of the key reliability issues for photovoltaic systems.
  4. An ability to estimate the cost and performance of grid-connected and stand along PV systems.


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 taught at the advanced undergraduate / beginning graduate student level.

Topics Covered:


Understanding of semiconductor fundamentals (e.g. energy bands, doping, carrier densities, drift-diffusion equations, Fermi and quasi-Fermi levels, etc.)

Applied / Theory:

50 / 50


Homework problems and solutions are available for each of the five units. Homework will not be graded, but the exams will be closely related to the homework assignments. You are strongly encouraged to work the assigned HW BEFORE looking at the solutions.


Grades will be determined by two one hour exams. A maximum of 100 points is possible on each exam.


M.A. Alam, Physics of Solar Cells: An Atoms-to-Farm Perspective, (draft manuscript). A copy of this draft will be provided to students.

Computer Requirements:

Other Requirements:

This is an online course to be offered through edX.

ProEd Minimum Requirements:


Tuition & Fees: