KD6042 - Advanced Photovoltaics

What will I learn on this module?

The photovoltaic (PV) effect is the direct conversion of sunlight into electricity. Future energy demand and climate change require a significant increase in renewable generation to sustain economic development. The power incident on the Earth from sunlight, vastly exceeds human consumption, PV offers the most viable route to sustainably generate electricity from the Sun. The module delivers an advanced understanding of solar photovoltaic technologies through the four main themes indicated below:

Solar Resource: Solar energy, including concepts such as Air Mass spectra and solar insolation.

Relevant semiconductor theory, to: understand the photovoltaic effect, the interaction of light with solar cell materials and the electrical behaviour of the materials. Subjects covered include, semiconductors under equilibrium conditions, direct and indirect energy bandgaps, optical absorption and electrical properties. Solar cells operate under non-equilibrium conditions and recombination processes, current density, minority carrier behaviour within ideal pn junctions and diodes, are examined within the module.

Solar cells are introduced, based on ideal photovoltaic solar cell key parameters: the Current-Voltage (I-V) characteristic, Spectral response and Capacitance-voltage behaviour. The optimum energy bandgap for a single junction solar cell is considered and then multi-junction solar cells and advanced concepts.

Commercially produced solar cells their applications and the PV market. A review of the design and manufacture of solar cells based on crystalline silicon, multicrystalline silicon, “low cost” thin film semiconductors, Graetzel , organic and high efficiency solar cells is included.

How will I learn on this module?

A range of learning and teaching approaches are used in this module. Lectures will follow an integrated approach to learning with initial information dissemination followed by a chance to practice the application of knowledge, using problem based learning and research case studies. This will allow students to understand the solar resource, photovoltaics applications and the theoretical concepts associated with photovoltaic devices. To support this learning journey, students are introduced to an online resource (www.pveducation.org) which contains a wealth of Java simulations that illustrate core concepts. Students have an opportunity to enhance their understanding of the subject through seminars that will be used to solve and discuss practical problems, provided to students in advance to promote independent learning and tackle key problems PV decvices. Students are provided with formative feedback to problems within the seminars that also provide an opportunity for peer-groups problem-solving.

Summative assessment is composed of an assignment (20% of the module mark) and a closed book written examination (80% of the module mark). The assignment is a literature review that provides an opportunity for the student to critically appraise current research in photovoltaics and structure their findings in an appropriate way. Formative assessment will be via problems set in advance of seminar sessions which are designed to provide students with a measure of their progress and knowledge. Verbal feedback will be provided during seminar sessions. Exam feedback will provided individually and also generically to indicate where the cohort has a strong or a weaker answer to examination questions. Written feedback will be provided on the coursework.

How will I be supported academically on this module?

In addition to direct contact with the module team during lectures and seminars, students are encouraged to develop their curiosity by developing this contact either via email or the open door policy operated throughout the programme. Students will also be regularly referred to supporting resources including relevant texts and multimedia relevant to photovoltaics. References to these resources will be made available through the e-learning portal and in lectures and seminars.

What will I be expected to read on this module?

All modules at Northumbria include a range of reading materials that students are expected to engage with. The reading list for this module can be found at: http://readinglists.northumbria.ac.uk
(Reading List service online guide for academic staff this containing contact details for the Reading List team – http://library.northumbria.ac.uk/readinglists)

What will I be expected to achieve?

Knowledge & Understanding:
• Understand the physical principles of the operation of photovoltaic solar cells and new technologies in the advanced solar cells.
Intellectual / Professional skills & abilities:
• Critically evaluate the choice of materials used to make solar cells

• Analyse the loss mechanisms in solar cell devices

Personal Values Attributes (Global / Cultural awareness, Ethics, Curiosity) (PVA):

• Develop curiosity by proposing qualitative techniques to improve the efficiency of solar cell devices.

How will I be assessed?

1. Assessment (literature review) (20%) – KU1
2. Examination (80%) – ISA1, ISA2, PVA1

1. Seminar problems - ISA1, ISA2

Feedback is provided to students individually and in a plenary format both written and verbally to help students improve and promote dialogue around the assessment.





Module abstract

You will lean the core knowledge of solar photovoltaic technologies through the four main themes: Solar resource and solar energy; relevant semiconductor theory; ideal Solar cells design and performance, commercially produced solar cells and latest new generation solar cells. You will be taught using a range of learning and teaching approaches in this module, lectures, seminars, problem-based learning and research case studies. To support this learning journey, you will be introduced to an online resource and provided the seminar questions in advance to promote independent learning and tackle key problems PV devices. You will be provided with formative feedback to problems within the seminars that also provide an opportunity for peer-groups problem-solving. The literature survey based coursework encourages you to independently research external resources and critically appraise current research in photovoltaics and structure their findings in an appropriate way which focuses on real research activities.

Course info

UCAS Code F300

Credits 20

Level of Study Undergraduate

Mode of Study 3 years full-time or 4 years with a placement (sandwich)/study abroad

Department Mathematics, Physics and Electrical Engineering

Location City Campus, Northumbria University

City Newcastle

Start September 2024 or September 2025

Fee Information

Module Information

All information is accurate at the time of sharing. 

Full time Courses are primarily delivered via on-campus face to face learning but could include elements of online learning. Most courses run as planned and as promoted on our website and via our marketing materials, but if there are any substantial changes (as determined by the Competition and Markets Authority) to a course or there is the potential that course may be withdrawn, we will notify all affected applicants as soon as possible with advice and guidance regarding their options. It is also important to be aware that optional modules listed on course pages may be subject to change depending on uptake numbers each year.  

Contact time is subject to increase or decrease in line with possible restrictions imposed by the government or the University in the interest of maintaining the health and safety and wellbeing of students, staff, and visitors if this is deemed necessary in future.


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