Photovoltaics / Fotowoltaika Creative Commons, Attribution alone (BY)
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Authors: Warsaw University of Technology
Physics
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A scenario and supplementary materials for a lesson on photovoltaics that is the conversion of light into electricity. The lesson on photovoltaics (PV) aims at teaching the students about the physical background of the principle of operation of solar cells as well as advantages and disadvantages of photovoltaic systems as power sources. In order to achieve these goals the following topics are discussed: 1) What are the possible sources of electrical power? What are global/local energy demands? 2) How much energy and in which form is delivered by the Sun? 3) Physical principles behind the photovoltaic action: photoelectric effect and diodes. 4) Why there is a limit of the PV conversion efficiency? 5) Environmental issues of photovoltaics. 6) Experimental determination of parameters of conversion efficiency of a solar cell. The topic is closely related to real world problems: in recent years, with 3.4% (EU) and 1.3% (worldwide) electricity share, PV became a real-world power source technology, the Compound Anual Growth rate of PV installations was 40% between 2010 to 2016 (2017 Frauenhofer PV Report), and the PV industry was the largest renewable energy employer with 2.8 milion jobs worldwide and an 11% increase over 2011 (2016 IRENA Annual Review). There exist tight interconnections between PV and the following branches of science and technology: mathematics, physics, engineering, electronics, economy and weather forecasting. Cover image by Fernando Tomás, cc-by-2.0.
Knowledge acquisition gain
  The lesson on photovoltaics (PV) aims at teaching the students about the physical background of the principle of operation of solar cells as well as advantages and disadvantages of photovoltaic systems as power sources. In order to achieve these goals the following topics are discussed: 1) What are the possible sources of electrical power? What are global/local energy demands? 2) How much energy and in which form is delivered by the Sun? 3) Physical principles behind the photovoltaic action: photoelectric effect and diodes. 4) Why there is a limit of the PV conversion efficiency? 5) Environmental issues of photovoltaics. 6) Experimental determination of parameters of conversion efficiency of a solar cell.

Workforce in Physics

In the EU, around 540,000 students are enrolled in physics, astronomy, chemistry, and earth science courses. Jobs for physicists, other scientists and engineers grew by 7% in the past five years. Jobs for technicians in the field grew by 2%. Overall, they account for 7% of all jobs in the EU. As of 2016, around 15 million European science and engineering workers are employed. They work in a variety of sectors directly related to physics, including aerospace and defence, energy, engineering, manufacturing, oil and gas, science and telecommunications. Others work in sectors such as IT and consultancy, financial services, legal, transport and utilities. In the next years, jobs for engineers and researchers will increase by 13%, and jobs for science and engineering technicians will increase by 2%.