ACS Distance Education UK
The basic component that actually captures the energy is the photovoltaic cell. They rely on the fact that photons (small parcels of light) act as both matter and radiation. These cells convert EMR in the visible light, infra red and ultraviolet spectrums directly into electrical energy. Photovoltaic cells are generally made from treated silicon (S) and are known as silicon PV cells. These cells are actually highly specialised superconductors which are formed from purified silicon with a crystalline structure. This structure has specific electrical properties. Essentially when light hits the panel the photons travel through to the crystalline silicon, the photon dislodges an electron and this is what causes the electrons to flow. The crystalline structure can be either monocrystalline or polycrystalline.
Cost is high
Cost is lower
Efficiency is high
Efficiency is also lower
Can use less space
Takes up more space
During manufacturing the purified silicon has special impurities added to it to change the availability of electrons. These are known as P Type and N Type impurities.
Manufactured to produce a shortage of electrons
Manufactured to produce an abundance of electrons
When the cells are assembled the two types of silicon are layered with a sheet of silicon dioxide between them. This is known as the P-N Junction. The silicon dioxide prevents the electricity flowing until light is present, when a potential difference is developed between the two layers. This is very similar to what we have discussed with batteries. In a solar panel a positive electrode is formed by metal ribbing connected to the P type silicon. The ribs are connected with wires. The negative electrode is formed by a base under the N type silicon known as the substrate.
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