What is a Solar Cell?


            A solar cell, by definition is a device that converts solar energy into electricity, using the photovoltaic effect.  The term solar cell can also be used to describe devices used specifically to capture the sun's energy.

            There are many gadgets that already use solar cells.  I'm sure you have probably used or at least seen a "solar calculator".  Earth-orbiting satellites are  also powered by solar energy. 

            A simple explanation of how solar cells work is that photons from sunlight hit a solar panel, usually made of glass, and are absorbed by semi-conducting materials, these are usually made of silicon.  Electrons (these are negatively charged) are knocked loose from their atoms, which allows them to flow through the material to produce electricity.  The complementary positive charges that are also created, are called holes and move in the opposite direction of the electrons inside the panel.

            A number of solar panels can convert solar energy into a usable amount of a DC current.

            An inverter is then used to change the DC current into an AC current


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