Module Details

The information contained in this module specification was correct at the time of publication but may be subject to change, either during the session because of unforeseen circumstances, or following review of the module at the end of the session. Queries about the module should be directed to the member of staff with responsibility for the module.
Title Solar Energy Conversion
Code CHEM464
Coordinator Professor AJ Cowan
Year CATS Level Semester CATS Value
Session 2022-23 Level 7 FHEQ Second Semester 7.5

Pre-requisites before taking this module (or general academic requirements):



To impart knowledge on the underpinning theory of electronic structure of solids relevant to solar energy conversion and to demonstrate the application of these fundamental concepts in applied solar energy conversion technologies

Learning Outcomes

(LO1) Show an ability to describe - and provide evidence for understanding of - the electronic structure of solids in terms of bands.

(LO2) Show understanding of electronic structure as a function of reciprocal space (bands) and energy (density of states).

(LO3) Show ability to describe the electronic structure of semiconductors and demonstrate how that relates to applications in solar energy conversion

(LO4) Show understanding of transport in semiconductors in terms of electrons and holes, and how they are created and destroyed in the process of photoexcitation

(LO5) Show ability to describe minimum device requirements for solar photovoltaic and photoelectrochemical devices and to reproduce the structure and relevant energy diagrams for p-n Si devices and photoanodes and photocathodes.

(LO6) Show an ability to discuss the principles and limitations of selected 2nd, 3rd generation PV technologies

(LO7) Show an ability to apply equations to calculate carrier properties, cell efficiencies and optical properties.

Teaching and Learning Strategies

Lectures. Asynchronous (recordings) in place of in-person lectures.

Workshops. Online content supported by in-person sessions consisting of 4 x 1 hr timetabled workshops (weeks 1, 3, 5, 7) of the course and optional office hours (week 2, 4, 6, 8). Workshops will provide students with a chance for small group working on a series of problems that are presented to them on the day with the support of the module teaching staff. Workshops are not assessed.

Coursework. Two sets of questions made available typically in weeks 3 and 6 of the 8 week course, with feedback provided.

*Lectures: 16 hr
*Workshops: 4 hr



The module consists of 16 lectures worth of material and 2 workshops. It will cover the following topics:
1. Introduction to periodic boundary conditions, plane waves and Bloch theory
2. Band theory. Free electrons. Model periodic potentials. Transport (effective mass).
3. The band structure of simple semiconductors (e.g. Si, GaAs). The concepts of (photo)electrons and holes.
4. Semiconductor doping. Extrinsic versus intrinsic semiconductors. Dopant states (acceptor/donor). Balance of carrier concentration versus dopant scattering.
5. Optical properties of materials - what determines the strength and frequency of optical absorption?
6. Introduction to transparent conducting layers (ITO, Ag, correlated metals e.g. SrNbO3)
7. The principles of photovoltaic energy conversion (minimum device requirements), p-n Si, Solar cell performance characteristics
8. PV device equations (Si) – carrier density, photogenerat ion, recombination, transport, calculating for simplified p-n junction, dark currents and factors limiting performance
9. 2nd generation PV materials e.g. a-Si, CdTe,
10. 3rd generation PV e.g. Perovskite/DSSC
11. Principles of solar chemical conversion including the minimum device requirements and concept of photoelectrochemistry

Recommended Texts

Reading lists are managed at Click here to access the reading lists for this module.

Teaching Schedule

  Lectures Seminars Tutorials Lab Practicals Fieldwork Placement Other TOTAL
Study Hours 16


Timetable (if known)              
Private Study 55


EXAM Duration Timing
% of
Penalty for late
unseen closed-book written examination  120    70       
CONTINUOUS Duration Timing
% of
Penalty for late
Two sets of problems    30