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Hands-On Photovoltaic Experience

The annual Hands-On PV Experience (HOPE) Workshop was held virtually in 2020 and will likely be a virtual event in 2021.

The HOPE Workshop is designed to strengthen photovoltaic (PV) research at universities in the United States. HOPE is designed primarily for students, but also requires participation of the professors leading the research and overseeing each student's thesis.

Screenshot of a virtual meeting of group of doctoral students at the 2020 HOPE event.
Student participants in 2020 virtual HOPE

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
    • Perform hands-on measurements.
  • Build a network of research connections with other researchers, professors, and students from across the United States.

In 2020, HOPE students participated in the fabrication of Si, III-V, CdTe, and perovskite solar cells, as well as quantum efficiency and current-voltage characterization of these cells. They also learned about commercialization and entrepreneurship. Students also learned a variety of PV-related characterization techniques, including secondary ion mass spectrometry (SIMs), time-resolved photoluminescence, X-ray and ultraviolet photoelectron spectroscopy, scanning probe techniques, and more. Students also learned about PV module fabrication and characterization, as well as outdoor testing of photovoltaic modules.

Eligible Applicants

HOPE targets professors who are leading PV-related research programs in the U.S. who would like to send a Ph.D. candidate to learn more about fabrication, measurement, or study of photovoltaic materials and devices. A joint application (for both the professor and student) is required. Participants do not need to be U.S. citizens but must be enrolled in a Ph.D. program in the U.S. All foreign nationals are subject to Department of Energy foreign national access requirements for NREL. We 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 Ph.D. research, the program tends to be most beneficial to students toward the middle (second–fourth year). To ensure the quality of the program, we are unable to accept all applicants but encourage application in a second year for those who are not accepted the previous year.

For technical difficulties with application submission, please contact Meghan Hughes.


Please check back in early 2021 for application details.

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 2019 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


Adele Tamboli

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