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Photovoltaic Effect Operation

Edit: DS New Energy    Date: Oct 17, 2018

Photovoltaics is the direct conversion of light into electricity at the atomic level. Some materials exhibit a property known as the photoelectric effect that causes them to absorb photons of light and release electrons. The first photovoltaic module was built by Bell Laboratories in 1954. 

 

The photovoltaic effect occurs in solar cells. These solar cells are composed of two different types of semiconductors - a p-type and an n-type - that are joined together to create a p-n junction.

 

By joining these two types of semiconductors, an electric fieldis formed in the region of the junction as electrons move to the positive p-side and holes move to the negative n-side. This field causes negatively charged particles to move in one direction and positively charged particles in the other direction.

 

Light is composed of photons. These photons can be absorbed by a photovoltaic cell - the type of cell that composes solar panels. When light of a suitable wavelength is incident on these cells, energy from the photon is transferred to an atom of the semiconducting material in the p-n junction. Specifically, the energy is transferred to the electrons in the material. This causes the electrons to jump to a higher energy state known as the conduction band. This leaves behind a "hole" in the valence band that the electron jumped up from. This movement of the electron as a result of added energy creates two charge carriers, an electron-hole pair.

photovoltaic-effect

Due to the electric field that exists as a result of the p-n junction, electrons move to the negative n-side and the positive holes move to p-side therefore comes with the photovoltaic effect.


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