Solar Cell Fundamentals

By Mark Lundstrom1; J. L. Gray1; Muhammad A. Alam1

1. Electrical and Computer Engineering, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN



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The modern solar cell was invented at Bell Labs in 1954 and is currently receiving renewed attention as a potential contribution to addressing the world's energy challenge. This set of five tutorials is an introduction to solar cell technology fundamentals. It begins with a broad overview of solar cells and continues with a discussion
of carrier generation and recombination in silicon solar cells. The tutorials continue with an overview of solar cell modeling and simulation. The fourth tutorial discusses thin-film, non-crystalline fsolar cells, which promise good efficiencies with low manufacturing costs. Finally, a much different type of solar cell, the organic, bulk heterojunction solar cell is discussed to show that all solar cells can be understand in terms of some very general principles.

Sponsored by

"Electronics from the Bottom Up" is an educational initiative designed to bring a new perspective to the field of nano device engineering. It is co-sponsored by the Intel Foundation and the Network for Computational Nanotechnology.


ECE 606: Principles of Semiconductor Devices is recommended if additional background on semiconductor devices is needed.

Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  • Mark Lundstrom, J. L. Gray, Muhammad A. Alam (2011), "Solar Cell Fundamentals,"

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Burton Morgan 121, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN


Lecture Number/Topic Online Lecture Video Lecture Notes Supplemental Material Suggested Exercises
Solar Cells Lecture 1: Introduction to Photovoltaics View Flash View Notes (pdf) YouTube
An introduction to solar cells covering the basics of PN junctions, optical absorption, and IV characteristics. Key technology options and economic considers are briefly presented.

Solar Cells Lecture 2: Physics of Crystalline Solar Cells View Flash View Notes (pdf) YouTube
Solar cell performance is determined by generation and recombination of electron-hole pairs. This tutorial focussing on recombination losses in crystalline silicon solar cells under short-circuit...

Solar Cells Lecture 3: Modeling and Simulation of Photovoltaic Devices and Systems View Flash View Notes (pdf) YouTube
Modeling and simulation play an important role in designing and optimizing PV systems. This tutorial is a broad overview of the topic including a look at detailed, numerical device simulation.

Solar Cells Lecture 4: What is Different about Thin-Film Solar Cells? View Flash View Notes (pdf) YouTube
Thin film solar cells promise acceptable efficiency at low cost. This tutorial examines the device physics of thin-film solar cells, which generally require a different type of analysis than...

Solar Cells Lecture 5: Organic Photovoltaics View Flash View Notes (pdf) YouTube