2021 Introduction to Photovoltaics

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Academic unit or major
Graduate major in Energy Science and Engineering
Miyajima Shinsuke 
Course component(s)
Lecture    (ZOOM)
Day/Period(Room No.)
Mon5-6()  Thr5-6()  
Course number
Academic year
Offered quarter
Syllabus updated
Lecture notes updated
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Course description and aims

Photovoltaic (PV) power generation is known as an important renewable energy. Photovoltaic power generation is based on solar cells. Topics covered in this course will include the following: basics of photovoltaics effect, semiconductor physics, solar cells, advanced design of solar cells, and PV systems.

This course will provide a comprehensive overview of photovoltaics power generation. Next, basic semiconductor physics which are required to understand the operation of solar cells will be introduced. The course will demonstrate how solar cells generate electricity, structures of solar cells and techniques to improve the conversion efficiency. The course will be concluded by discussing PV systems.

Student learning outcomes

By the end of this course, students will be able to:

1. Understand the photovoltaic effect
2. Explain the operation of solar cells and conversion efficiency
3. Illustrate the structure of high efficiency solar cells
4. Explain how solar cells are manufactured
5. Analyze solar cells by using device simulator
6. Understand structures of PV systems


Photovoltaics, Solar cells, Semiconductor, pn junction, Heterojunction, Thin films

Competencies that will be developed

Specialist skills Intercultural skills Communication skills Critical thinking skills Practical and/or problem-solving skills

Class flow

At the beginning of each class, solutions to exercise problems that were assigned during the previous class are reviewed. The instructor will take questions during this time. Towards the end of class, students are given exercise problems related to the lecture given that day to solve. To prepare for class, students should read the course schedule section and check what topics will be covered. Students are required to study outside of the classroom for preparation and review purposes.

Course schedule/Required learning

  Course schedule Required learning
Class 1 Structure of photovoltaic power generation system and current status of photovoltaic power generation Understand the basic structure of photovoltaic power generation system and current status of photovoltaic power generation.
Class 2 Basics of sunlight and photovoltaic effect Understand the basic feature of solar spectrum and the mechanism of photovoltaic effect.
Class 3 Equivalent circuit and output parameters of solar cell Understand equivalent circuit of solar cell and output parameters of solar cell.
Class 4 Review of semiconductor properties: optical absorption, carrier recombination, carrier continuity equation, pn junction Understand the basic properties of semiconductor materials which are required to understand the operation of solar cell.
Class 5 Analysis of solar cell using pn junction : Photocurrent and quantum efficiency Understand features of photocurrent and quantum efficiency of solar cell.
Class 6 Theoretical efficiency of solar cells Understand the efficiency limit of a solar cell.
Class 7 Basic characterization techniques of solar cells Understand the basic characterization techniques of solar cells.
Class 8 Basics of device simulations of solar cells Calculate the device performance of a solar cell with a simple structure using device simulator.
Class 9 Conventional silicon solar cell technology Explain the structure and fabrication process of conventional silicon solar cells.
Class 10 Improved silicon solar cell technology-PERC cell, selective emitter cell Explain the basic features of PERC cell and selective emitter cell.
Class 11 Improved silicon solar cell technology-Heterojunction and TOPCon technologies Explain the basic feature of silicon heterojunction and TOPCon technologies.
Class 12 Thin film solar cells –CIGS, CdTe, Perovskite solar cell Explain the basic features of compound semiconductor thin film solar cells.
Class 13 Ultra-high efficiency solar cells Explain the basic features of ultra-high efficiency solar cells.
Class 14 Basics of PV module (solar panel) Explain the basic structure of PV module and characterization techniques.

Out-of-Class Study Time (Preparation and Review)

To enhance effective learning, students are encouraged to spend approximately 100 minutes preparing for class and another 100 minutes reviewing class content afterwards (including assignments) for each class.
They should do so by referring to textbooks and other course material.


There is no textbook for the lectures. Reading materials will be distributed on the web.

Reference books, course materials, etc.

M. Green, "Solar Cells, Operating Principles, Technology and System Applications" Prentice-Hall Inc.
S.M.Sze, K.K. Ng, "Physics of Semiconductor Devices 3rd Ed." Wiley Chapter 13 Solar Cells
Some refereces list will be provided if necessary.

Assessment criteria and methods

Evaluation will be based on the term-end report (50%), mid-term report (30%) and the exercises which is assigned during classes (20%). Student's knowledge of solar cells and photovoltaic systems will be assessed.

Related courses

  • EEE.D211 : Semiconductor Physics
  • ENR.H410 : Topics in Properties of Semiconductors

Prerequisites (i.e., required knowledge, skills, courses, etc.)

Students are expected to have basic knowledge of semiconductor materials, quantum mechanics (or quantum chemistry).

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