Installation and configuration

Trying Solcore

You can try Solcore without installing anything in your computer by using the online service To do so, just click in the following badge:

It might take a few minutes to start the server. Be patient! Once launched, this service offers a full-feature Jupyter server with Solcore and all its dependencies installed on it. You can use it to try different features and run the examples shipped with Solcore, but it is not recommended for production: resources in MyBinder are limited and the execution depends on a reliable internet connexion.

Once you are ready to install it in your own machine, go to the next section.

Installing Solcore

The only requirement for installing Solcore is having Python version 3.7 or higher (Python 3.8 or higher if you are installing on a MacOS device with an ARM/Apple M1 chip). Installing Solcore (version 5.9 onwards) should be as easy as running the following command in your terminal:

pip install solcore

This will download Solcore from the PyPI repository and install the package within the active Python environment. Depending on your operating system/Python installation you may need to use pip3 instead of pip. And that’s all! Solcore should be available to be used as with any Python package:

>>> import solcore

Note that the above should install the Fortran-based Poisson drift-diffusion (PDD) solver, without requiring local compilation (i.e. you do not need to have Fortran compiler installed on your computer – see further details below). If you would like to install Solcore without the PDD solver, you can do so by running:

pip install solcore --config-setting=setup-args="-Dwith_pdd=false"

Installation details

Solcore is written mostly in Python, but the Poisson-Drift-diffusion (PDD) solver is written in Fortran to make it more efficient, and the RCWA (rigorous coupled-wave analysis) solver uses the package S4 which is written in C++. Solcore uses pre-built binary wheels for the PDD solver to make installation as easy as possible (these are built for Windows, Linux, and MacOS, including for ARM/M1 chip architectures).

The package S4, which supports Solcore’s RCWA capabilities (used to calculate the optical effects of diffraction grating and other periodic structures) is not installed automatically. If you want to use these features you will need to install it yourself as described here. If you would like to use S4 on Windows please see the suggestions here.

Installing from source

Alternatively, you can download the source from the Solcore GitHub repository, either using git clone or as a zip file using one of the links on the right. If you want to install it, unpack it and run from the directory where pyproject.toml is located:

pip install .

This will compile the PDD solver locally, so you will need to have a a suitable Fortran compiler (only needed for the PDD solver). If you wish to install Solcore from source without compiling the PDD solver, you can do so by running:

pip install . --config-setting=setup-args="-Dwith_pdd=false"

Installing in development mode

If you are planning to develop Solcore further, you may want to have all the files in an accessible place (as opposed to the default installation location for pip), while still being able to use the package from other places and examples, so that if you make changes to the solcore5 folder those changes will be reflected in installed versions of the package. To achieve this, you need to install Solcore in editable/development mode. Download or clone the source from the Solcore GitHub repository as above, and make sure the dependencies are installed (the easiest way to do this is to run pip install solcore, which will install Solcore with dependencies as usual, followed by pip uninstall solcore). In the folder where pyproject.toml is located run:

pip install meson-python==0.13.0rc0 cython ninja
pip install -e . --no-build-isolation --no-deps

If you are developing Solcore using Git/GitHub, we recommend you use pre-commit to do a few things before committing changes (for example, clearing the output of Jupyter Notebooks). The pre-commit package is installed automatically with the above commands, but each user needs to be initialise it before it can work. This can be done with:

pre-commit install

Check the pre-commit webpage for more information on how it works.

Getting started

After installing Solcore (or even without installing it), there are a few things you might want to do in order to personalise it and start using it. These are general instructions that, hopefully, should work in most *NIX systems. Check specific instructions for:

1. Create a user configuration file: The first time Solcore is run, it will create a hidden folder in your user directory. This folder will contain the local configuration and will store custom materials and other parameters. You can customize the location of by setting the environmental variable SOLCORE_USER_DATA. You can check the current configuration with:

from solcore import config

You can find all the functionality of the config object in The config_tools.

2. Check Solcore examples: This is the fastest way of getting started. These examples include all the scripts used in the main Solcore paper in the Journal of Computational Electronics (2018) and a few others to explore other functionality. We hope to increase the number and usefulness of these examples over time. You can try the examples directly using

  1. Set the location of a SPICE executable and the SMARTS folder: You will need to do this if you want to use those tools:

from solcore import config


4. Installing S4: The rigorous-coupled wave analysis (RCWA) solver S4, created by the Stanford University, needs to be installed separately using the fork by Phoebe Pearce. The original version does not work with Python 3.x, only with Python 2. You can find more information about the solver in the project webpage. An example of its use with Solcore is included in the examples folder here.

5. Getting specific information about Solcore: Even though the documentation “should” be more complete, you can get information about any object in python (including any Solcore function, module and package) using the help built-in function, for example:

.. code:: python

from solcore import config help(config)

Problems with the installation

There are several things that can go wrong in the above description, specially in Windows.

1. The tests associated with the Poisson-Drift-Diffusion solver fail: This is usually the result of not having a Fortran compiler installed in your system, not being correctly configured or having a temperamental F2PY version, the tool - included in numpy - that makes Fortran code accesible from Python. Please, make sure you follow all the steps indicated in the Fortran compiler section and above to have the PDD solver up and running.

2. Some of the dependencies fail to install: That is rarely the case, as all dependencies are in the main Python repositories. However, there might be issues with Numpy, Matplotlib and Scipy. Depending on your Python distribution, some of these packages might need to be compiled and it is often easy to get them as a scientific bundle. You can check Anaconda which provides all these packages together already configured for the correct OS.

3. The PDD solver throws an error, even though I installed it and the installation appeared to be successful: This can happen if you are trying to call PDD functions when the solcore5 directory (downloaded from GitHub) is the current working directory. Try calling the functions from a different working directory (by e.g. copying the file you are trying to run to a different directory) and seeing if the error persists.

The config_tools

This module contains all the functions that will help you to setup and configure your Solcore installation, as it has been highlighted above. The full description of the functions included in this module are: