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Photovoltaic solar panels

  1. May 6, 2009 #1
    One day i would like to work on improving and designing Photovoltaic solar panels. I was wondering which degree in university is generally took, if one wants to research in solar panels. I for sure know that mechanical engineers research with thermal solar panels, but what about voltaics?
  2. jcsd
  3. May 6, 2009 #2
    I'm not 100% sure, but I would think Electrical Engineers would work with some aspects of solar energy.
  4. May 7, 2009 #3
    I'd say EE is your best bet but perhaps something like chemical engineering or materials science would also be a good fit. You may want to keep other options in mind however rather than restricting your career plan to only working on solar technology. I think it is a good goal, however, given the current need for alternative energy research
  5. May 7, 2009 #4
    Hi there,

    Can you enlighten me on the what are
    because for what I know, solar panel are running pretty close to their therotical limit value.
  6. May 7, 2009 #5
    I would disagree from the above posts. All of the seminars I have attended about solar cell research have been given by chemists and material scientists, and for good reason. PV science is very chemistry oriented, just read some recent publishings on the latest PV developments to see just how much.
  7. May 7, 2009 #6


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    My school has a rather large research group working on various types of solar cells. The group is headed by a professor from the physics department and the graduate students are a mixture of physics, chemistry, and materials science, roughly in order of decreasing numbers. I do not know of anyone in electrical engineering working on solar cells at my school, but I am aware of EE groups in other places (they tend to work on different types of solar cells than we work on).
  8. May 7, 2009 #7
    Definitely if you want to work on developing new PV technology then materials science or chemistry would be a good bet, but electrical engineers might work on related technology (for instance, designing power systems that use PV panels)

    Also, I'm a physics major and I'll be working as an intern in the national center for photovoltaics this summer, but I'll be working on a measurement system (I know very little about chemistry or materials science)
  9. May 7, 2009 #8
    Great info, guys!
    Im going to go into mechanical engineering (from what I have heard mech eng. have a lot of options then say the chem engineer etc. for their specialization) So hopefully i can somehow weave knowledge related to photovoltaic into my undergraduate program that will help prepare me for research in this field. Does this sound feasible? What types/category of courses would you suggest I take?
  10. May 7, 2009 #9
    If you want to do any serious research in the PV area, then your better change your major. Unless you want to get into solar thermal energy then you can't really do much in the solar field when your an ME.
  11. May 7, 2009 #10

    Are you planning to use your major to do academic research, or pursue practical applications in the field? If it's research you want, I'd talk with a professor (ideally one who is in charge of a group working on solar cells) at your university, as it seems that the best major differs slightly from place to place. If you prefer to apply your knowledge in the real world, I would think any major suggested would be sufficient.
  12. May 7, 2009 #11
    at a university,Wellesley.
  13. May 7, 2009 #12


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    Since PV panels are quantum devices, I would recommend going into the field of quantum mechanics if you want to improve their basic design. But all of the fields will contribute to the ultimate systems, so it's up to you.

    It may impractical to create a 100% efficient PV panel, so I'm sure it was a ME that pointed out that the thermal waste byproduct of current PV panels can be put to good use.

    And any half-witted EE would be able tell you that PV's in series vs parallel will cut your transmission losses by the square.
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