2.626 Fundamentals of Photovoltaics

As taught in: Fall 2008

A diagram of a cadmium telluride solar cell, and an SEM cross-section of a cell showing the thickness of each layer.

Solar cells are engineered to use different materials, form factors, and manufacturing techniques, striking a balance between performance and cost across various applications. Thin films are one promising technology. (Courtesy M. Terheggen. Used with permission.)

Level:

Graduate

Instructors:

Prof. Tonio Buonassisi

Course Description

In this course students will learn how solar cells convert light into electricity, how solar cells are manufactured, how solar cells are evaluated, what technologies are currently on the market, and how to evaluate the risk and potential of existing and emerging solar cell technologies. We examine the potential & drawbacks of currently manufactured technologies (single- and multi-crystalline silicon, micromorph tandem cells, CdTe, CIGS, CPV, PVT), as well as pre-commercial technologies (organics, biomimetic, organic/inorganic hybrid, and nanostructure-based solar cells). Hands-on laboratory sessions explore how a solar cell works in practice. We scrutinize what limits solar cell performance and cost, and the major hurdles — technological, economic, and political — towards widespread substitution of fossil fuels. Students will apply this knowledge towards developing and critiquing a solar energy technology prospectus.