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Renewable Energy

Module PH2160

This module handbook serves to describe contents, learning outcome, methods and examination type as well as linking to current dates for courses and module examination in the respective sections.

Module version of SS 2018

There are historic module descriptions of this module. A module description is valid until replaced by a newer one.

Whether the module’s courses are offered during a specific semester is listed in the section Courses, Learning and Teaching Methods and Literature below.

available module versions
SS 2022SS 2021SS 2020SS 2019SS 2018SS 2017SS 2014

Basic Information

PH2160 is a semester module in English language at Master’s level which is offered in summer semester.

This Module is included in the following catalogues within the study programs in physics.

  • Specific catalogue of special courses for condensed matter physics
  • Specific catalogue of special courses for Applied and Engineering Physics
  • Complementary catalogue of special courses for nuclear, particle, and astrophysics
  • Complementary catalogue of special courses for Biophysics

If not stated otherwise for export to a non-physics program the student workload is given in the following table.

Total workloadContact hoursCredits (ECTS)
300 h 60 h 10 CP

Responsible coordinator of the module PH2160 in the version of SS 2018 was Martin Stutzmann.

Content, Learning Outcome and Preconditions


This module provides an up-to-date introduction to the physical laws and limitations governing the use of renewable energy sources in our modern society. In addition, the current state-of-the-art of the different forms of renewable energy in terms of conversion efficiencies, energy densities, time-dependent global and local availability and energy storage is presented in a quantitative manner.

In the first half the module (about 50%) deals with classical (mainly mechanical and thermal) forms of renewable energy. After a general discussion of different forms of energy and energy conservation, the system "earth-sun" as the origin of all forms of renewable energy is discussed in detail, in order to understand the underlying astrophysical boundary conditions. This is followed by an in-depth analysis of wave and tidal energy, wind energy, as well as geothermal and solar thermal energy.

This is followed by the discussion of forms of renewable energy which require a specific understanding of  electronic and optoelectronic processes in molecules and solids: photosynthesis and biomass, photovoltaics, and thermoelectric energy conversion. Basic electronic processes as well as relevant materials and device structures will be described.

Learning Outcome

After completing the module the students are able to

  • understand the different forms of renewable energy, their origin and their specific boundary conditions in terms of availability, energy density and storage capability
  • describe the fundamental physical concepts limiting the technical use of renewable energy sources and the efficient conversion into other forms of energy
  • provide a qualitative description of technical means to efficiently harvest different renewable energy sources, including a realistic understanding of typical efficiencies and overall contributions to a future energy scenario
  • realistically evaluate and judge  the potential economical and environmental impact of different forms of renewable energy on a global scale.


No preconditions in addition to the requirements for the Master’s program in Physics.

Courses, Learning and Teaching Methods and Literature

Courses and Schedule

VO 4 Renewable Energy Stutzmann, M. Mon, 14:00–16:00, PH HS2
Tue, 16:00–18:00, PH HS2

Learning and Teaching Methods

In the thematically structured lecture the learning content is presented. Cross references between different topics will discuss the main physical concepts relevant for different forms of renewable energy. Direct question/answer periods will actively involve the students to better develop their individual understanding of state-of-the-art data and physical concepts.


1) Handwritten lecture notes based on tablet-PC / beamer presentation in pdf and onenote format

2) Additional handout material (diagrams, original articles etc.) in pdf format

Both will be available until the completion of the repeat exam for download on a password-protected web page.


No specific course literature is required. Some general recommendations for specialized books will be made at the beginning of the lecture.

Module Exam

Description of exams and course work

There will be a written exam of 90 minutes duration. Therein the achievement of the competencies given in section learning outcome is tested exemplarily at least to the given cognition level using calculation problems and comprehension questions.

For example an assignment in the exam might be:

  • What is the physical formula describing the energy density of energy form x,y,z?
  • Why do modern wind engines have three rotor blades?
  • Describe the main loss mechanism of wind engines at low tip speed ratios.
  • What is the maximum achievable concentration factor for solar radiation? Why?
  • Describe the dependence of a single absorber solar cell on the absorber band gap.
  • What is the fill factor of a thermoelectric power generator?

In the exam no learning aids are permitted.

Exam Repetition

The exam may be repeated at the end of the semester.

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