Solar Energy

Learn the physics of energy harvesting from our most renewable source, the Sun.

In this course we'll examine the principal methods of harvesting energy from sunlight—concentrated solar power and photovoltaic cells—starting from fundamental physics principles.

By the end of this course, you’ll be able to answer practical engineering questions surrounding multi-junction cells, materials design, and considerations in servicing utility scale electrical grids.

Interactive
quizzes

30

Concepts and
exercises

265+
  1. 1

    Introduction

    Here we learn about the importance of solar energy on Earth and the bedrock science needed to understand it.

    1. The Essential Energy of Sunlight

      Almost all energy on Earth is old sunlight stored for different amounts of time.

    2. EM Basics

      The basic anatomy of solar radiation and how it spreads through space.

    3. Quantum Light: Enter the Photon

      A photon's energy content is determined by its wavelength.

    4. Spectral Properties of Sunlight

      30% of the Sun's photons carry 50% of its energy to Earth.

  2. 2

    Solar Availability

    Take a quantitative look at how much sunlight reaches Earth and explore how we can concentrate sunlight to higher intensity.

    1. Included with
      Brilliant Premium

      Solar Availability

      Just how much energy makes it from the Sun to Earth's surface?

    2. Included with
      Brilliant Premium

      Solar Intensity

      Light beam intensity puts fundamental limits on what we can power with the Sun.

    3. Included with
      Brilliant Premium

      Conservation of Etendue

      Just because you want to squeeze light beams together doesn't mean that you can.

    4. Included with
      Brilliant Premium

      Directionality of Sunlight

      How much energy you can collect from sunlight depends on where you are and what time it is.

  3. 3

    Solar Thermal Power

    A close look at concentrated solar power, a flexible collection mode that enables solar power at night.

    1. Included with
      Brilliant Premium

      Solar Thermal Basics

      Can you heat your home at night with sunlight from the day?

    2. Included with
      Brilliant Premium

      High Temperature Solar Thermal

      You don't need a solar panel to harvest solar energy.

    3. Included with
      Brilliant Premium

      Efficiency of Solar Thermal Systems

      If you want to get the most from solar thermal, you need to make things hot.

    4. Included with
      Brilliant Premium

      Spectral Selectivity

      Careful design of thermal properties can drastically reduce our losses.

  4. 4

    PV: Working Principle

    An introduction to solid state photovoltaic cells and the physics that enables their production of power.

    1. Included with
      Brilliant Premium

      What are photovoltaics?

      An overview of how photovoltaic panels turn sunlight into electricity.

    2. Included with
      Brilliant Premium

      Band Gap

      If you're an electron in a semiconductor, you're either bound to an atom or you're conducting.

    3. Included with
      Brilliant Premium

      Photon Absorption

      A solar cell can't harvest the energy from any old photon, it has to be just right.

    4. Included with
      Brilliant Premium

      Recombination

      When an electron and a hole recombine, useful energy turns into wasted heat.

  5. 5

    PV: Shockley Queisser Limit

    Coming Soon
  6. 6

    PV: Engineering and Advanced Concepts

    Coming Soon