Hands-On Photovoltaic Experience

The Hands-On Photovoltaic Experience (HOPE) Workshop will be held July 14–19, 2024.

The HOPE Workshop is designed to strengthen photovoltaic (PV) research at universities in the United States. HOPE is designed for graduate student participants, with participation from the faculty members overseeing each student's dissertation.

HOPE: Hands-On Photovoltaic Experience

July 2024

Students inspect a PV structure.

HOPE provides opportunities for professors and graduate students to:

  • Interact with scientists and engineers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and others from across the United States
  • Learn about PV technology in a hands-on, small-group research setting
    • See solar cells fabricated
    • Learn in-lab measurement methods
    • Experience the full process of solar cell fabrication
    • Explore in-lab metrology and characterization methods
    • Fabricate a mini-module and learn about fielded PV experiments
    • Gain understanding of the PV industry and global dynamics affecting the field
    • Understand the techno-economics and sustainability priorities of the energy transition
  • Build a network of research connections with other researchers, professors, and students from across the United States.

The HOPE program offers students expertise in a variety of PV-related characterization techniques, including secondary ion mass spectrometry, time-resolved photoluminescence, X-ray and ultraviolet photoelectron spectroscopy, and scanning probe techniques.

In previous years, HOPE students learned about the fabrication of Si, III-V, CdTe, and perovskite solar cells as well as quantum efficiency and current-voltage characterization of these cells. Participants also gained valuable insight surrounding commercialization and entrepreneurship while learning about PV module fabrication and characterization, and outdoor testing of photovoltaic modules.

For 2024, the program agenda will include a track for learning aspects of PV modules at the system level, including performance, reliability, and grid considerations.

Eligible Applicants

HOPE is aimed at doctoral students pursuing PV-related research in the U.S. who would like to learn more about fabrication, measurement, and study of photovoltaic materials and devices, while connecting with NREL’s staff and other students and faculty in this research space.

Participants do not need to be U.S. citizens but must be enrolled in a doctoral program in the U.S. NREL cannot accept students from foreign universities, students pursuing a master's degree only, or postdoctoral researchers. While we accept students at any point during their doctoral research, the program tends to be most beneficial to students toward the middle (second–fourth year). To ensure a small-group experience and close interactions with NREL staff , we are unable to accept all applicants but encourage application in a second year for those who are not accepted on their first application, the previous year.

HOPE 2024 will be held in person at NREL and Colorado School of Mines July 14 to July 19, 2024. HOPE requires students to pay for travel from their graduate institution to Golden, Colorado; for housing at Colorado School of Mines and dinners not provided by the program.

In the past, we have required professors to attend part of the HOPE workshop with their students. For 2024, we will work with professors to contribute an activity but understand that travel remains more difficult than in past years and expect that many faculty will participate remotely.


The application period for HOPE 2024 is now closed. Please check back in December of 2024 for information about applying to the 2025 program.

Workshop Content

The workshop is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office.

The workshop content changes year to year depending on the interests of the participants; however, the schedule for the 2022 HOPE Workshop offers a sense of the workshop's usual content.

Interested in current-voltage and quantum efficiency measurements on solar cells? View slides from Colorado State University's Jim Sites, who presented a tutorial on solar cell measurements.

Spectral mismatch between lamps used for testing photovoltaic cells and the actual solar spectrum can lead to measurement errors if they are not corrected for. Students at the 2017 Hands-On Photovoltaics Experience Workshop at NREL learned how to do proper spectral mismatch corrections when testing photovoltaic cells, and then made the video below to explain the technique. Watch this video to learn how to implement spectral mismatch corrections in your own lab.

Want to learn the basics of some of the leading PV technologies? The other videos below are lectures from NREL scientists on various technology areas.

Spectral Mismatch

Students at the 2017 Hands-On Photovoltaics Experience Workshop at NREL learned how to do proper spectral mismatch corrections when testing photovoltaic cells, and then made a video to explain the technique. Text version

Silicon PV

Paul Stradins gives an overview of how solar cells work, and then gets into the fundamentals of silicon photovoltaics, the market-leading technology. Text version

III-V Multijunctions

Myles Steiner explains how III-V and multijunction solar cells work. These devices are the basis for the highest efficiency photovoltaics. Text version

Hybrid Perovskites

Joe Berry discusses the exciting new field of hybrid perovskite photovoltaics, which have emerged recently as a leading contender for widespread PV deployment. Text version

Cadmium Telluride PV

Matt Reese discusses the history and recent developments in cadmium telluride thin film solar cells. Text version


For more information, contact Silvana Ovaitt at HOPE.workshop@nrel.gov.

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