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Energy Transition: Photon Power



In this course, you will learn about photochemical processes in which solar energy is converted into electricity, fuel or biomass. We will first discuss the quality of sunlight and compare theoretical maximum efficiencies for different solar energy-conversion processes. The following lectures will teach the principles of natural photosynthesis and of photovoltaics, and of electron transfer and photocatalysis in man-made artificial or engineered photosynthetic systems. We will discuss different concepts of artificial photosynthetic systems and integration into a solar fuel device. Furthermore, we will discuss solar end products that may be obtained and the contribution and future potential of “photon power” for sustainability, food and energy security. At the end of the course, you give a literature presentation on a scientific paper related to one of the lecture topics


This course is available only for students in the minor Sustainable Chemistry and Biotechnology

Course Objectives

At the end of the course students:

  • can explain concepts of quantum efficiency and the causes of energy losses in photosynthesis and photovoltaics

  • can describe the principles of photovoltaics and of photo-induced electron transfer and photo-catalysis in natural photosynthesis and in manmade systems

  • can critically reflect on the costs and benefits of photovoltaics, solar and biofuels for renewable energy



Mode of instruction

Lectures and seminars

Assessment Methode

40% of the grade based on weekly home assignments
10% based on participation to the discussion sessions
50% based on the final presentation and report on a group project

Reading List

Fundamentals of Materials for Energy and Environmental Sustainability,
David S. Ginley & David Cahen, Cambridge University Press, 2012.
available as e-book via Leiden University Library (weblink on Brightspace)

Literature discussed during lectures and student presentations


Enrollment through uSis is mandatory

Information and Contact

Francesco Buda