Clean Technology 2009

Photovoltaic Solar Energy Conversion

Sunday May 3, 2009, 8:00 am - 6:00 pm, Houston, Texas

Technology Focus

Minimizing anthropogenic alterations of the world climate calls for tens of terawatts of carbon free renewable energy resources. Yet the combined energy production potential of all known non-solar carbon-free renewable resources seems insufficient to meet these targets. Consequently in the upcoming decades, solar energy, and in particular photovoltaics (PV), is expected to bridge the gap.

The PV industry, even in its relatively small gigawatt energy production level, is a multi-billion dolar industry. Boosted by regulatory incentives, the industry is experiencing a strong growth and a significant influx of capital investment. Recent advances in solar cells and in particular in inexpensive thin films and concentrator PV devices, together with the growing penetration of PV into the energy market, continue to drive down the cost of solar electricity generation. Today the production cost of kwh in many applications approaches the retail price of electricity generated by traditional means (fossil fuels). However, in order for PV to become a major component of the global renewable energy portfolio, a nearly 2-3 fold further cost reduction is needed. Such a cost reduction will likely rely on transformative technological breakthroughs that would significantly enhance the efficiency and/or simplicity of PV modules. In addition to these cost reductions, sound policies covering the investment, deployment, and distribution of PV systems must be implemented in order to fully maximize the benefit of these new technologies.

Course Content

The tutorial will consist of 3 parts
  • Part 1 - Basic design and operation principles of solar cells and PV systems.
    The first part of the tutorial will describe the operation and design principles of conventional solar cells and photovoltaic systems. Emphasis will be placed on the properties of sunlight, the basic elements of light management and photo-conversion in semiconductors, as well as system level design/manufacturing approaches toward improving the efficiency and cost of solar cells.

  • Part 2 - Present PV landscape and challenges.
    The tutorial will then review attributes of existing so-called first and second generation solar cells technologies (i.e crystalline Silicon, thin films and concentrator PV) highlighting their advantages and shortcoming and best system level tradeoffs for cost effective deployment. The tutorial will also address current PV landscape and existing/perceived technical and economic barriers toward a large scale deployment of photovoltaics. This part of the tutorial will cover various issues ranging from the present state of the markets, constrains imposed by global planetary material reserves, and toxic-carbon footprints associated with present day technology.

  • Part 3 - Next Generation Photovoltaics.
    The final part of the tutorial will provide an overview of present R&D into 3rd generation ultra-efficient photovoltaics. Covered will be emerging or transformative R&D and innovations based on nanotechnology that could help to significantly enhance the efficiency and reduce the cost of PV systems .and therefore help the society in meeting its future energy needs in more sustainable and cost effective manner.


Alex Freundlich Dr. Alex Freundlich is a Research Professor of Physics with a joint appointment in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at the University of Houston. He is the founder and the leader of the Photovoltaics and Nanostructures Laboratories at the Center for Advanced Materials, at the University of Houston. Professor Freundlich has over twenty years of experience in the development of thin film semiconductors and high efficiency solar cells. He holds a BS (1981) a MS (1984) and a Ph.D.(1989) from University of Nice-Sophia Antipolis. Prior to joining in fall of 1994 the faculty at the University of Houston, Prof. Freundlich was a senior permanent member of the Corps of Researchers at the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS). Alex serves and has served on numerous select Federal, Industry and International expert panels and committees. Alex holds 6 US patents in advanced solar cell devices. He has authored/co-authored over 200 technical publications and is frequent invited/plenary speaker at national and international conferences. He currently serves on the editorial board of “Recent Patents in Nanotechnology” and “Recent Patents in Electrical Engineering”. During his career at CNRS and the University of Houston Professor Freundlich has trained numerous graduate students and researchers, some of whom have grown to become leading experts in academia and the private sector. Alex is affiliated with the American Association for Advancement in Science (AAAS), the American Physical Society (APS), The Institute for Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) , the National Space Society (NSS) and the Material Research Society (MRS).

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