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Introduction to solar cells (Coursera)

In the course you will learn about solar cell history, why we need solar energy, how solar cells produce power, and how they work. We will also talk specifically about solar cell technologies, so you will learn what the difference is between mono and multi-crystalline solar cells. What thin film solar cells are, and what new emerging technologies is being developed.

Introduction to solar cells is a course designed to be a window into the world of solar cell technologies. The course is built around three core questions:

– Where can solar cells be applied and what can be done to optimize their usefulness

– How can the power generated from a solar cell be used and measured

– What general types of solar cells exists and how do they compare




In this introduction module I would like to introduce you to the course its content and teaching style. I hope you will enjoy the way we have designed the course.

History of solar cells

The first topic in an introduction course on solar cells is naturally a historical overview. In this module you will briefly get introduced to the history and early development of solar cells. We will also start to do some calculations of efficiency and energy output of solar cells.

Graded: History

Graded: Space

Why solar energy

The most important question one can ask must be: “Why is solar energy is an important topic and why should we develop solar energy?”. This module does not claim to answer that question fully, but we will summarize the strong case for renewable energy.

Graded: Energy sources

Graded: Sunlight at Earth


Power from solar cells

How much power can a solar cell produce and how can we measure it? This question is the starting point for this module and we will go through the terminology, talk about light sources, and even measure a solar cell ourselves.

Graded: Power from a solar cell

Graded: Light

Modelling a solar cell

In this module we will introduce an equivalent circuit of a solar cell and use it to explain key concepts including short circuit current, open circuit voltage, parasitic resistances, and more. We will also talk about connected solar cells, and their behavior in shaded conditions.

Graded: Equivalent circuit

Graded: Connected solar cells


How do solar cells work

In this module we will attack the topic: How do solar cells work? This module will be more theory heavy than other parts of the course, but don’t worry. We will focus on the key concepts that are necessary to understand how solar cells work, and skip the math.

Graded: Semiconductors and doping

Graded: How do solar cells work

Efficiency of solar cells

With a knowledge of the working principles of solar cells, we are now ready to apply this knowledge to understand why there are limits to the efficiency of solar cells. We will also briefly look into loss mechanisms that limit the practical efficiency.

Graded: Efficiency

Graded: Losses


Silicon solar cells

Silicon solar cells are by far the most prevalent solar cell technology. In this module we will talk about why silicon is so abundant. We will also learn how silicon solar cells are made, what differentiates multi and monocrystalline silicon, and much more.

Graded: Silicon solar cells

Graded: Fabrication

Thin film solar cells

Moving beyond silicon solar cells, the next important development is thin film solar cells. In thin film solar cells, we see a potential solution to the major problem associated with silicon solar cells: namely energy payback time.

Graded: Thin film solar cells

Graded: Energy production


Polymer solar cells

We will now turn to an example of a third generation solar cell technology: namely polymer solar cells. Polymer solar cells promise to solve all the problems we see with other technologies. They are cheap and fast to produce, they are non-toxic and use non-scarce materials, and they exhibit the lowest energy payback time of any technology. In this module we will learn about pros and cons of this interesting technology.

Graded: Polymer solar cells

Graded: Production

Solar cell technologies

In our final module of this course we will look into a selection of solar cell technologies and spend some time comparing all the different solar cell technologies.

Graded: Solar cell technologies

Graded: Solar cells