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Introduction to solar cells

Technical University of Denmark (DTU) via Coursera


How do solar cells work, why do we need, and how can we measure their efficiency? These are just some of the questions Introduction to solar cells tackles. Whether you are looking for general insight in this green technology or your ambition is to pursue a career in solar, “Introduction to Solar Cells” is an excellent starting point.

The course is a tour through the fundamental disciplines including solar cell history, why we need solar energy, how solar cells produce power, and how they work. During the course we cover mono- and multi-crystalline solar cells, thin film solar cells, and new emerging technologies. The course includes hands-on exercises using virtual instruments, interviews with field experts, and a comprehensive collection of material on solar cells.

At the end of the course you will have gained a fundamental understanding of the field. This will allow you to identify the most interesting or relevant aspects to be pursued in your future studies or in your professional career.


  • Introduction
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Taught by

Morten Vesterager Madsen


5.0 rating, based on 10 Class Central reviews

4.8 rating at Coursera based on 2435 ratings

Start your review of Introduction to solar cells

  • Morten M
    A great course with great emphasis on thorough explanations and a good balance between video and reading material. I really enjoyed the use of virtual instruments to enhance the learning experience.

    I can highly recommend the course if you have an interest in solar cell technology. There are great resources available and the quiz feedback is truly helpful with relevant help and hints. A++
  • Gisele A. Dos Reis Benatto
    As the title specifies, it is an introduction to PV.
    It doesn't go too deep into theory, but it does present an excellent overview of the current and new PV technologies, with their advantages and challenges.
  • Kurt Lester
    The course is very well executed. The professor is well spoken and easy to understand. During the course there is plenty of help and tips for all assignments.
    I really liked the used of interactive elements to enhance learning.
    Higly recommended.
  • Anonymous
    The course offers an excelent overview of the field of photovoltaics. The material is engaging and varied.
    I can highly recommend the course.
  • Profile image for MOHAMMAD AMIR ALI
    This course really wonderful to know about the topics but its need more attention ,about what it says about ,and its classification,some advantages and also disadvantages.
  • John
    The course is really helpful for beginners as the basics are explained crystal clear. I highly enjoyed the content and gained valuable information from the brief overview of the advanced technologies in the field of solar cells.
  • J. Jackson
    Excellent course for stepping into solar engineering. Highly recommended for anyone interested in the subject before reaching for more advanced textbook publications or courses.
  • Mikkel
    Great course covering solar cell history, technologies, physics and more. I liked the focused lectures with clear goals each week.
    To sum up, the course is worthwhile and easily recommendable.
  • Anonymous
    It is interesting course but leading towards industry support in future the best practicing materials and interface analysis for further development is urged.
  • Varpe Vijay Mhatru
    This online course is best method to learn. At point of vew , this course is fully depth, and its Quiz is also challenge to participating . This type of information is nessesary to research student. Lot thanks .

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