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Spreading knowledge of solar cell technology to the world


Spreading knowledge of solar cell technology to the world

By Kasper Haagen Skovse

A new online course on solar cells explains how solar cells are made, what kind of solar cells exist and how solar cells are an essential part of a fossil-free society based on sustainable energy technologies.

Three successful years with the online course ‘Organic Solar Cells – Theory and Practice’, with more than 100,000 enrolled students from 180 different countries, has led to a brand new course with less focus on technology and more on solar cells in general.

“The feedback on the first course was that people in general were quite satisfied, but many felt that the course was very difficult and we had a very big dropout rate,” says Morten Vesterager Madsen, researcher at DTU Energy, who devised the new, more basic course on solar cells.

“We experienced a huge demand for information on solar cells on a more basic, not so technological level, and although the new Coursera course still describes the technologies behind solar cells, we keep it low key to reach a broader audience than people with a degree in physics”, says Morten Vesterager Madsen.

The Coursera platform offers free online courses at university level, so-called Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), in collaboration with more than 60 universities around the world, including Stanford, Caltech, University of Copenhagen and DTU. However, courses in computer, human and social sciences far surpass technology-oriented courses among the over 2000 offered courses, making the courses of DTU Energy very much in demand.

The new DTU course ‘Introduction to solar cells’ is a beginner’s course in solar cells, targeting people around the world with interest in solar cells. It is built around three key issues:

* Where can solar cells be applied and what can be done to optimize their usefulness

* How can the power generated from a solar cell be used and measured

* What general types of solar cells exists and how do they compare

DTU Energy does research on solar cells made of plastics (polymers), and Morten Vesterager Madsen draws on researchers from all over DTU specializing in Energy economy, thin film and silicon solar cells to provide different perspectives on the teaching material.

“The online course exists in a virtual world with no access a physical laboratory, but we have developed a number of educational virtual instruments to make DTU’s overall knowledge of solar cells both accessible and transparent to the students. We alternate between text, video and quizzes, so people stays focused.”

The goal is to make people around the globe understand the technologies behind solar cells and why solar cells are an essential and important part of a fossil-free society based on sustainable energy technologies. The course requires two to three hours of online reading and participation per week for five weeks.

“And people can continue and take the second Coursera course if they get hooked on solar technology and want to study it on a deeper level,” says researcher and teacher Morten Vesterager Madsen.

The new online course ‘Introduction to solar cells’ started on August 4 and has ongoing registration.

source: Technical University of Denmark

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