Solar Modules

Different types of solar cells

Photovoltaic conversion, which enables the sun’s rays to be converted into electricity, occurs in solar cells manufactured from silicon. Silicon is one of the most abundant materials on the planet (in the form of quartz sand) and is an environmentally friendly material.

This technology was pioneered in 1954, when Bell Lab scientists displayed the first silicon solar cell at the National Academy of Science in Washington DC.

The specially treated silicon strips, when exposed to light, powered a small FM radio that broadcast music to a packed audience.

That year the New York Times boldly proclaimed:

“Vast power of the Sun is tapped by battery using sand ingredient”

The silicon solar battery, it was claimed, – “may mark the beginning of a new era, leading to the realisation of one of mankind’s most cherished dreams – the harnessing of the almost limitless energy of the sun for the uses of civilisation.”

That dream has yet to be realised, due largely to the high cost of solar cell technology. For example, C60 carbon atoms (Fullerene solar cells) are forty times more expensive than gold. This goes some way to explaining why solar power isn’t more abundant.

Today, the range of solar cells spans many materials and molecular architectures, in the quest to extract maximum power while keeping the costs to a minimum.

What are the different types of solar cells?

Solar cells can be made of different semiconductor materials. Each solar cell also consists of an electrical contact with the semiconductor that carries the electrons away from the solar cell and into the electrical circuit where they can, for instance, power a light bulb or charge a battery.

The whole cell is then encapsulated in a transparent cover that provides environmental protection and contains an anti-reflection coating to make sure that as little light as possible is reflected away from the cells.

The different types of solar cell are:

  • Crystalline silicon solar cells
  • Thin film solar cells
  • Non-silicon compound thin film solar cells
  • Nano-crystalline solar cells
  • Fullerene solar cells

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