Computer Engineering, Electrical Engineering
Project Description: More energy reaches the earth every hour from the sun than human civilization uses in a year. Although tremendous progress has been made in improving the affordability of solar photovoltaic (PV) modules, challenges in terms of storage remain, given that batteries can be expensive and short-lived. An alternative is to capture sunlight as heat, using a selective solar absorber. There are several approaches to then convert this heat into electricity. One strategy uses thermal radiation, typically from a blackbody emitter, to illuminate a PV diode, thus generating electricity. Typically, there are many losses limiting the efficiency of this approach. For example, the temperature difference between emitter and receiver requires us to separate the two, which creates a gap in which photons can be lost. This project will consider strategies to achieve selective solar absorption and conversion in an experimentally realistic fashion. You will utilize and modify a GUI-based simulation tool to precisely calculate the details of how special absorber designs can improve the capture and storage of solar energy. Time permitting, we will also consider the role of optical, electronic, and thermal transport in efficiently converting this solar energy into electricity on demand, using a PV module.
Related website: http://web.ics.purdue.edu/~pbermel/photovoltaics.html
Desired Qualifications: Familiarity with introductory mechanics and electromagnetism is required. A working ability to read and modify scientific code (e.g., in MATLAB) is also needed. Finally, the ability to quickly learn a new scientific topic is desired. Knowledge of the drift-diffusion and heat diffusion equations for current and heat transport is a plus. An understanding of basic (first-quantized) quantum mechanics, including Schrodinger’s equation and time-independent plus time-dependent first-order perturbation theory is a plus. Prior experience with Linux and shell scripts is a plus.