SOLAR CELL OVERVIEW
Solar cells are used in everyday life, often without people giving them much thought. For example, solar calculators, those that do not use batteries, have solar cells so as long as there is adequate light, the calculator works. However, solar cells are also used on homes in the form of solar panels. With this, electricity is seldom used, meaning the homeowner saves tremendous money on electric bills while also helping with the environment.
In the past 20 years, our country has undergone the "solar revolution" as more and more people are becoming aware of the benefits. Using energy from the sun to operate everyday appliances is not something futuristic but today. Just imagine, on a day when the sun is shining brightly, approximately 1,000 watts of energy per square meter is being used on earth. With solar cells, we can capture some of that energy, collecting and storing it to run our homes, offices, and even cars.
To use solar cells, photons must be converted to electrons. First, the word, "photon" means light and voltaic, which equates to electricity. Each photovoltaic cell is comprised of materials known as semiconductors, to include silicon, probably the most commonly used at present. What happens is that when light hits the cell, some of it is absorbed within the semiconductor material, which means energy of the absorbed light is transferred to the semiconductor.
Next, the energy goes to work by knocking the electrons loose, which allows them to flow freely. In addition, photovoltaic cells have one or more electric fields, each forcing the electrons that have been freed to flow in a specific direction, which is known as a current. By placing metal contacts on the top and bottom of the cells, the current can be drawn on to use externally. Taking the calculator as an example again, currents can power this device.
Keep in mind that when it comes to solar cells, there is much more but the above is the basic outline of how solar power works. If more people would use solar power to run home appliances such as dishwashers, dryers, washing machines, computers, and so on, the entire country would benefit as less strain and drain is placed on overworked transformers and electricity companies. However, the financial savings is tremendous and just imagine, during the next major storm when all your neighbors are without electricity, everything in your home would remain up and running.
Solar Cell Overview: Online article containing an overview of photovoltaic cells and how hey work.
Solar Cells: A guide to solar cells by howstuffworks that includes details and images.