Materials Concepts for Solar Cells Thomas Dittrich

Imperial College Press, 2014 552 pages, $118.00 (hardcover) ISBN 978-1-78326-444-5

    Learning about renewable sources of energy is very pertinent in today’s context. This textbook is targeted to students interested in the principles and applications of solar cells. It is divided into two parts, with the first part providing the basic principles of solar cells. This section is complemented by a second section where a more practical approach for materials used in the design and architecture of solar cells is presented. The index is comprehensive, and symbols, abbreviations, and acronyms are clearly provided at the beginning of the book. Each chapter contains a summary where the author recapitulates important points. Furthermore, the tasks or problems at the end of each chapter assist in assimilating concepts. The solutions to the tasks are also provided and serve as an auto-evaluation tool. Morever, equations and diagrams are abundant and useful. The bibliography is ample for further reading, and an index with keywords is also provided at the end of the book.

    The first of 10 chapters provides an introduction to solar cells by explaining concepts such as I–V characteristics and quantum efficiency. The principles of photogeneration are presented in the second chapter along with practical issues of photon absorption and electron-hole generation. The different types of processes affecting the carrier lifetime, including recombination mechanisms, are discussed in the third chapter. The fourth chapter deals with charge separation of photogenerated carriers created in a p–n junction by its built-in potential. Connecting the p–n junction via an ohmic contact to an external load is well explained in the fifth chapter, which deals mainly with the physics of semiconductor-metal contacts. The sixth chapter concludes the first part of the book by discussing the maximum efficiency of a solar cell and its limitations.

    The materials-related concepts in the second part start from the seventh chapter where the most used solar-cell material-silicon-is discussed. In the eighth chapter, III-V semiconductor solar-cell materials are investigated. Their epitaxial growth and tandem solar cells are outlined, followed by the ninth chapter, which exclusively discusses thin-film solar cells. This includes transparent conducting oxides, amorphous and micro-crystalline silicon, chalcopyrites (e.g., CIGS) and kesterites (e.g., CZTS), and the widely exploited CdTe solar cells. The final chapter introduces solar cells from a nanotechnology point of view Here, quantum dots, organic and dyesensitized solar cells, perovskite-sensitized solid-state solar cells, charge transport, and nanowire arrangements of solar cells are briefly surveyed.

    The book is of good pedagogical value. Students as well as teachers can make use of this either as a main textbook or as a support for their lessons. However, this book deals with charge transport and band structures as well as other concepts in physics, and therefore targets mainly readers with a physics background. In general, the book is well written and provides a solid basis for studying solar cells.

    Reviewer: Protima Rauwel, the Institute of Physics, University of Tartu, Estonia.

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    Materials Concepts for Solar Cells Thomas Dittrich. MRS Bulletin 40, 533–534 (2015).

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