Dr. Daryoosh Vashaee

Dr. Daryoosh Vashaee

Electrical and Computer Engineering

Phone: 919-515-9599
Fax: 270-897-1179
Instructor Website
Research Website

MSE 589 Solid State Solar and Thermal Energy Harvesting

3 Credit Hours

(also offered as ECE 589)

This course studies the fundamental and recent advances of energy harvesting from two of the most abundant sources, namely solar and thermal energies. The first part of the course focuses on photovoltaic science and technology. The characteristics and design of common types of solar cells is discussed, and the known approaches to increasing solar cell efficiency will be introduced. After the review of the physics of solar cells, we will discuss advanced topics and recent progresses in solar cell technology. The second part of the course is focused on thermoelectric effect. The basic physical properties, Seebeck coefficient, electrical and thermal conductivities, are discussed and analyzed through the Boltzmann transport formalism. Advanced subject such as carrier scattering time approximations in relation to dimensionality and the density of states are studied. Different approaches for further increasing efficiencies are discussed including energy filtering, quantum confinement, size effects, band structure engineering, and phonon confinement.


Students must be familiar with the basics of semiconductors to the level that they can understand the physics of the PN junction diode (energy bands, doping, electric field, potential, drift current, diffusion current).

NCSU Students: E304 (Intro to Nanoscience and Technology), OR ECE302 (Microelectronics), OR MSE355 (Electrical, Magnetic and Optical Properties of Materials), OR PY407 (Introduction to Modern Physics).

Other students: Equivalent to one of the above courses.

Course Objectives

The course offers the expertise students need in both areas of photovoltaic and thermoelectrics and prepares them for graduate research or to work in solar cell manufacturing or thermoelectric industry. The goal is to prepare the students with the fundamentals and advanced topics of solid-state energy conversion. In the first part of the course, the science and engineering of various types of solar cells are introduced. The students will learn how the efficiency of solar cells are improved from fundamental points of view. Concepts such as tandem, multi-barrier, intermediate band, quantum dot intermediate band, hot carriers, Plasmonics and the effect of temperature will be discussed. In the second part, concepts in thermoelectrics, such as coefficient of performance, multi-stage devices, Seebeck coefficient, effect of temperature and density of states, Thomson effect, specific heat, Dulong-petit limit, Debye and Einstein models, phonon scattering mechanisms, and thermal conductivity are conveyed through physical equations and pictorial descriptions.

This course is recommended to senior undergraduate and graduate students in the area of Physical Electronics, Photonics & Magnetics, as well as anyone who is interested to learn about solar and thermal energy harvesting.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course, undergraduate and graduate students will be able to:

  • Explain the operation of various solar cells including multijunction, multiple excitation generation, multibarrier, quantum dot, hot carrier, intermediate band, plasmonic, heterogenous, dye sensitized, and perovskite solar cells.
  • Outline the parameters affecting the behavior of various solar cells and thermoelectrics
  • Interpret the experimental data of various solar cells and thermoelectrics
  • Distinguish the underlying physics of electron and phonon transport in semiconductors
  • Identify the promising density of states, lattice structure, and phonon dispersion for efficient solar cell and thermoelectric energy conversion
  • Explain the microscopic origin of Peltier effect, Seebeck voltage, and Thomson effect
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of strategies for making good thermoelectric materials

In addition, the graduate students after completion of the course project will be able to:

  • Calculate quasi Fermi levels, dark current, current-voltage characteristics, and efficiency of solar cells versus wavelength, temperature, and geometrical factors.
  • Formulate the temperature and doping concentration dependent photovoltaic efficiency
  • Critically review the advanced topics in photovoltaic and thermoelectrics published in scientific journals

Course Structure

The course is equally divided into two parts, solar cells and thermoelectrics. It starts with a review of semiconductor physics and continues with the solar cells section. Mid-term exam will be taken at the end of the first section and covers the solar cell lectures. The second part of the course focuses on thermoelectrics and continues to the end of the course. The final exam covers the thermoelectrics lectures only. A computational project will be assigned as part of ECE 492, which will be divided into multiple sections and will be given as we make progress through the course.  The project requires programming in MATLAB. Students must spend additional time learning MATLAB if they do not have the required experience. The project is optional for ECE 492. Undergraduate students who do the project will receive up to 15% credit towards their course grade.

Course Requirements

Component Weight Details
Quiz 30 In-class or take-home quizzes are given every week. All in-class quizzes are closed book and notes, and no formula sheet is allowed. Calculators are permitted – no laptop, ipad. One lowest grade quiz will be forgiven for each student.
Midterm exam  30  (489)  15  (589) Mid-term exam covers semiconductor fundamentals and solar cells. The exam is closed book and notes and no formula sheet is allowed. Calculators are permitted – no laptop, ipad.
Project 15 There is a course project which is divided into sections and distributed as we make progress in the course. Course project is not required for ECE492. However, undergraduate students who do the project will receive up to 15% bonus credit.
Final exam 40 Final exam covers thermoelectrics section only. It is closed book and notes, and no formula sheet is allowed. Calculators are permitted – no laptop, ipad.


Lecture Notes:

Lecture slides will be provided to the students.


  1. Semiconductor Devices, Physics and Technology M. Sze and M. K. Lee
    Edition: 3 (any other edition is also helpful)
    ISBN: 978-0470537947
    Web Link:
    Cost: $215 Note: e-book is available through NCSU library for free.
    This textbook is required.
  2. The physics of solar cellsJenny Nelson
    Edition: 1
    ISBN: 1860943403, 9781860943409
    Web Link:
    Cost: $104 (hard copy), $58 (soft copy)
    This textbook is optional.
  3. Introduction to Thermoelectricity Julian Goldsmid
    Edition: 2
    ISBN: 3662492563, 9783662492567
    Web Link:
    Cost: $129
    This textbook is optional.
  4. Materials, Preparation, and Characterization in ThermoelectricsDavid Michael Rowe
    Edition: 1
    ISBN: 1439874700, 9781439874707
    Web Link:
    Cost: $113
    This textbook is optional.

Computer and Software Requirements

Please review minimum computer specifications recommended by NC State University and Engineering Online.

Updated 10/07/2020