PV Systems

Mission: Leverage high-performance PV to enable qualitatively novel system-level functionality.

The component costs and performance specifications of microelectronic systems — including microcontrollers, communications, sensing, energy storage, and the PV module itself — have evolved considerably in the last ten years. These components can now be combined in new and cost-effective ways, enabling new applications and functionalities. In our systems research, we explore these opportunities:

  • Design, make, and optimize PV-enabled systems, including applications in large- and small-scale desalination, remote persistent autonomous sensing, and disaster relief. An example of system-level optimization includes demonstrating 10% solar-to-fuel conversion efficiency in compact devices [1], guided by equivalent-circuit models [2].
  • PV module reliability. To achieve financial payback, PV-module service lifetime is ideally measured in decades. With novel technologies, come novel failure modes. In close collaboration with industry, we apply our defect characterization suite to conduct root-cause analysis of PV module failure, co-developing engineering solutions to improve module reliability.


[1] C.R. Cox, J.Z. Lee, D.G. Nocera, and T. Buonassisi, “Ten-percent solar-to-fuel conversion with nonprecious materials,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 111, 14057 (2014).

[2] M.T. Winkler, C.R. Cox, D.G. Nocera, and T. Buonassisi, “Modeling integrated photovoltaic–electrochemical devices using steady-state equivalent circuits,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 110, E1076–E1082 (2013); featured in MIT News.

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