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Solar Cells: Definition & Meaning

Solar Cells Definition


Solar cells are semiconductor devices that convert sunlight directly into electricity. By harnessing the photovoltaic effect, these cells transform the energy of absorbed photons into electrical energy through the creation of electron-hole pairs in the semiconductor material.

Key characteristics include:

Material Composition: While there are various types, the most commonly used are made from silicon, in either monocrystalline or polycrystalline form. Other materials include thin-film technologies like cadmium telluride (CdTe) or copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS).

P-N Junction: At the core of a solar cell is the p-n junction, created by doping the semiconductor material to produce regions with positive (p-type) and negative (n-type) charge carriers. When sunlight hits the cell, it excites electrons, which are then moved by the electric field of the p-n junction, generating electric current.

Efficiency: A cell's efficiency refers to the percentage of sunlight's energy that can be converted into usable electricity. Typical commercial solar cell efficiencies range from 15% to 22%, though lab-scale innovations have achieved even higher efficiencies.

Modules and Arrays: Individual cells are often connected together to form a solar module or panel. Multiple panels can then be combined to create a solar array, scaling up the energy production capacity.

Applications: Beyond rooftop installations, solar cells are utilized in a diverse range of applications, from space satellites to handheld calculators.

Solar cells play a pivotal role in the global shift towards renewable energy, offering a clean, sustainable, and increasingly affordable means to generate electricity.


"By investing in high-efficiency solar cells, homeowners can maximize electricity generation even with limited rooftop space."

Know your solar definitions to learn and understand more about solar power. Develop your solar lingo here.

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