Aug 1, 2011

How Photovoltaic Solar Cells Work

We’ve previously talked about the photovoltaic effect, which is the conversion of solar radiation into electricity. Today we talk about how photovoltaic solar cells achieve this transition from light to electric power.

Solar cells are made of different types of photovoltaic material (you can read about these different types by clicking on the link) which are typically semi-conductors, such as silicon. When sunlight, or any other light for that matter, reaches these photovoltaic materials, some of the energy from the light is absorbed into the materials in the form of ‘photons’.

These photons bump into the electrons in the photovoltaic material and make them loose. These electrons then move about the solar cell and complete a circuit, which creates electricity.

Of course, one solar cell produces a tiny amount of wattage (electricity); hence, several photovoltaic solar cells are arranged in a frame or array to form a solar panel. Depending on the required power, thousands of solar panels may be placed together, such as at solar power plants; on the other hand, a small solar powered calculator can manage on a few solar cells.

The electricity is drawn away from the solar cells via metallic wires that connect to the relevant device, such as calculator, bulb, car battery, etc. The power can also be stored in batteries for later use if it’s not required immediately.

A previous blog post also covers this topic through different details.