About this online course


The key factor in getting more efficient and cheaper solar energy panels is the advance in the development of photovoltaic cells. In this course you will learn how photovoltaic cells convert solar energy into useable electricity. You will also discover how to tackle potential loss mechanisms in solar cells. By understanding the semiconductor physics and optics involved, you will develop in-depth knowledge of how a photovoltaic cell works under different conditions. You will learn how to model all aspects of a working solar cell. For engineers and scientists working in the photovoltaic industry, this course is an absolute must to understand the opportunities for solar cell innovation.

MicroMaster Program
This course is part of the Solar Energy Engineering MicroMasters Program designed to cover all physics and engineering aspects of photovoltaics: photovoltaic energy conversion, technologies and systems. We recommend that you complete this course prior to taking the other courses in this MicroMasters program.

What you'll learn:

  • The principles behind the potential loss mechanisms in photovoltaic devices.
  • The semiconductor physics necessary to understand solar cell performance and engineering.
  • The optics and light management tools necessary for optimal solar cell design.
  • To model all aspects of a working solar cell, understanding the efficiency limits and design rules.

Quote on this course

"I was able to familiarize myself with the latest theoretical knowledge on solar energy. This helped me to develop as an engineer and improve my skills." Previous student


Course Syllabus:

Week 1: Introduction
How do solar cells convert solar energy into electrical energy? What are the basic building blocks of a solar cell?

Week 2: Semiconductor Basics
What are semiconductors? What is a band diagram?

Week 3: Generation and Recombination
What are the physics of charge carriers?

Week 4: The P-N Junction
What is a diode? How does a diode change when we apply a voltage? What about when we illuminate it with solar energy?

Week 5: Advanced Concepts in Semiconductors
What happens when we connect a semiconductor to a metal? What other types of junctions of semiconductor materials are important for solar cells?

Week 6: Light management 1: Refraction/Dispersion/Refraction
Which optical phenomena are important for solar cells? How can we use them to make sure maximal light is absorbed.

Week 7: Light management 2: Light Scattering
Which techniques can we use to scatter light in our solar cell to enhance optical path length?

Week 8: Electrical Losses
Pull all the concepts together to understand how to engineer solar cells.

Week 9 to 10: final exam (proctored for ID verified learners)

Week 11: resit of the (proctored) exam
Finish all assignments and problem sets.


This is a MicroMaster Course that runs on EdX.


  • Bachelor's degree in Science or Engineering or the successful completion of TU Delft's MOOC Solar Energy.

  • Start date
    Nov 14, 2017
  • Cost
  • Course length
  • Estimated effort
    10 - 11 hours per week / 11 weeks
  • Course code

Related courses