Learn the physics of energy harvesting from our most renewable source, the Sun.
The Essential Energy of Sunlight
Quantum Light: Enter the Photon
Spectral Properties of Sunlight
Conservation of Etendue
Directionality of Sunlight
Solar Thermal Basics
High-Temperature Solar Thermal
Efficiency of Solar Thermal Systems
Performance of Spectral Selectivity
What Are Photovoltaics?
Collecting Charge Carriers
Current in Illuminated p-n Junctions
This course was written in collaboration with Lee Weinstein. Lee earned his Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering at MIT, where he conducted research in solar thermal energy generation 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.
- Absorption and Emission
- Carnot Efficiency
- Concentrated Solar Power
- Detailed Balance
- Electromagnetic Waves
- Energy Markets
- Photovoltaic Cells
- Semiconductor Physics
- Shockley Diode Equation
- Solar Availability
- Solar Spectrum
Prerequisites and next steps
You should have a basic understanding of Newtonian mechanics and the second law of thermodynamics. A working knowledge of the Boltzmann distribution would help but is not necessary.