Manufacturing Science of Solar Cells

In Fall 2012 ASU and QESST started a new class on the manufacture of silicon solar cells – the same type of cells used in nearly all solar photovoltaic systems installed worldwide. Students learn about modern techniques of solar cell fabrication in their classroom. Students also work as “virtual engineers” in the Virtual Solar Cell Factory – an online solar cell factory simulation – where they will have attempt to “save the company” using the manufacturing engineering science techniques being taught in their classroom.

As part of the class students toured the Solar Power Lab and the 22 kW Soitec tracker on the building grounds.

Silicon photovoltaic solar cells have reached the modern age of high-volume manufacturing. Solar cell manufacturing capacity has expanded 100-fold in the past 15 years, and has reached 20+ gigawatts of annual production. Photovoltaics engineers, scientists and managers must have a good working understanding of how solar cells are manufactured, improved and sustained in real solar cell factories, in order to succeed in their fields.

Students gain practical understanding of how silicon solar cells are manufactured and tested in a real solar cell factory. They also develop practical understanding of the manufacturing engineering tools that engineers use to make improvements in cost and performance in a real solar cell factory environment.

Tour of Suntech module manufacturing plant in the Phoenix area.