Solar Cell: Its Types, Construction, Working and Uses

What is Solar Cell?

A solar cell, also known as a photovoltaic cell or PV cell, is an electrical device that converts light energy into electrical energy through the photovoltaic effect. A solar cells is usually a pn junction diode. Solar cells are a form of photocell, defined as a device whose electrical properties, such as current, voltage, or resistance, vary when exposed to light.

Solar Cell

Definition: The photovoltaic cell is the semiconductor component that converts light into electrical energy. The voltage induced by the PV cell depends on the intensity of the light falling on it. The name photovoltaics is because of their ability to generate voltage.

Individual solar cells can be combined into modules commonly known as solar modules. The usual single-junction silicon solar cells can generate a maximum open circuit voltage of approximately 0.5 to 0.6 volts. In itself, that’s not much, but keep in mind that these solar cells are tiny. Significant amounts of renewable energy can be generated in a large solar panel.

Construction of Solar Cells

The semiconductor materials such as arsenide, indium, cadmium, silicon, selenium and gallium are used to manufacture the PV cells. Usually, silicon and selenium are used to manufacture the cell.

Consider the following figure, which shows the structure of the silicon photovoltaic cell. The top of the cell is made of the thin layer of the p-type material so that the light can easily enter the material. The metal rings are arranged around p-type and n-type material that act as positive and negative output terminals, respectively.

Solar cell Diagram

The multi crystalline or monocrystalline semiconductor material forms the individual unit of the PV cell. The single crystal cell is cut out of the volume of the semiconductor material. The multi-cells are obtained from the material that has many sides.

The output voltage and current obtained from each unit of the cell are very small. The output voltage is 0.6V and the current is 0.8V. The various combinations of cells are used to increase output efficiency.

Working of Solar Cell

A solar cells are a sandwich of n-type silicon and p-type silicon. It creates electricity by using sunlight to reflect electrons across the junction between the different silicon flavors:

Solar cell Diagram
  • When sunlight shines on the cell, photons bombard the top.
  • The photons carry their energy through the cell.
  • The photons give their energy to electrons in the lower p-layer.
  • The electrons use this energy to jump over the barrier into the upper n-layer and to escape into the circuit.
  • The electrons flow through the circuit and cause the lamp to light up.

Types of Solar cell

A solar or photovoltaic cell is an electrical device that converts light energy into electricity using a photovoltaic effect. The electrical characteristics of a solar cell, which is a type of photoelectric cell, include voltage, current, and resistance, and differ in exposure to light. Solar cells are the core elements of a photovoltaic module or solar panel.

Different kinds of solar cells include the following among all others:

  • Amorphous Silicon solar cell (a-Si)
  • Biohybrid solar cell
  • Cadmium telluride solar cell (CdTe)
  • Buried contact solar cell
  • Concentrated PV Cell (CVP and HCVP)
  • Dye-sensitized solar cell (DSSC)
  • Hybrid solar cell
  • Multi-junction solar cell (MJ)
  • Plasmonic solar cell
  • Luminescent solar concentrator cell (LSC)
  • Monocrystalline solar cell (mono-Si)
  • Perovskite solar cell

Most solar cells have some other type of silicon. In fact, about 90% of all solar or photovoltaic cells contain silicon. The efficiency of a solar cell to convert sunlight into power is directly proportional to the purity of their silicon molecules. Also, the better the efficiency, the more expensive the solar panel is. However, this aspect should not be the deciding factor for choosing one type and not the other.

In addition to the hybrid version, solar panels are classified into three types, mainly in commercial production. All three types are silicon semiconductor-based.

Monocrystalline solar cells

These solar panels are made using thin wafers of silicon, which are extracted from artificially grown crystals. Single crystals developed in isolation help to form these cells and make them the most efficient. This is why these are the most expensive among the other types. Compared to their counterpart polycrystalline cells, monocrystalline solar cells are about 35% more expensive and provide an efficiency rate between 15–24%.

Monocrystalline solar cell

Polycrystalline solar cells

Polycrystalline solar cells are also made using thin silicon wafers derived from artificially grown crystals, the only difference being that these are not single crystals. Rather, they use multiple interlocking silicon crystals propagated simultaneously. Therefore, their production is less expensive and they still offer an efficiency rate of 13–18%.

Amorphous solar cells

The cheapest form of solar cells is an amorphous solar cell. These are newly launching cells that are manufacture in a unique way. They avoid the use of crystals. Instead, their production process involves thin silicon deposits on the backing substrate.

Amorphous solar cells provide two major benefits, ie. Flexibility in solar cells with its extremely thin silicon layer, and high efficiency in low levels of light during winter.

But, while these promise the above benefits, they also compromise on efficiency. They provide the lowest efficiency rates of 7% – 9% compared to the other two variants. Thus, they require about twice the panel area to give the same output. Until now, they do not even have an approved production technology in the industry, and therefore, they are less robust than the other two types of solar panels.

Hybrid solar cells

It is not a completely solar cell, but a hybrid solar cell is a mixture of monocrystalline solar cells and amorphous solar cells. Hybrid solar cells called HET (heterojunction with intrinsic thin layer) solar cells. Compared to each individual type of solar cell, the hybrid type is the most efficient due to the combination of the power of the two solar cells. These work best during sunny seasons, ie beyond the 250C temperature. In view of the same, this helps generates about 10% more electricity.

If one has to choose the best, polycrystalline cells prove to be the most suitable for most installations due to their value for money, design and efficiency rate.

Material Uses in Solar Cell

Solar cells are typically named after the semiconducting material they are made of. These materials must have certain characteristics in order to absorb sunlight.

  • Crystalline silicon
  • Amorphous Silicon (a-Si)
  • Copper-Indium Gallium Diselenide (CIGS)
  • Gallium arsenide thin film
  • Cadmium Telluride (CdTe)
  • Monocrystalline silicon
  • Epitaxial silicon development
  • Polycrystalline silicon
  • Ribbon silicon
  • Mono-like-multi silicon (MLM)

Advantages of Solar Cell

  • Renewable energy: The energy can be used to generate electricity as well as heat in the house, either through solar PV or solar thermal energy.
  • Economical Energy: Solar cells are a great way to save money on your electricity bill because you don’t pay for the energy you generate.
  • Environmentally friendly energy: There is almost no pollution with solar cells. Discharge of waste and pollution are inevitable in connection with the manufacture of solar cells.
  • Innovative energy: Photovoltaics is a popular topic in green energy and is considered a good solution for preventing climate change.
  • Infinite Energy: If you have the ability to draw energy from the sun’s rays, it is a source of energy that will never be depleted.
  • Long-term energy: PV systems often have a long service life and a good service life.
  • Selling energy: If your home has solar panels, it is often easier to sell the property at a higher price.

Disadvantages of solar cell

  • Interior needs: Not all households that meet their requirements and can get the most out of their solar cells.
  • High investment requires: The installation costs for solar modules are relatively high.
  • Seasonal energy: Compared to other types of renewable energies, the solar power plant is highly seasonal.
  • Difficult to install Solar panels in your home: It may be more difficult to install solar panels in older households as they often have different designs that can provide shade.

Use of Solar Cell

  • Solar cells are very useful in powering space vehicles such as satellites and telescopes.
  • It may be used to charge batteries.
  • Used in light meters.
  • It is used to power calculators and wrist watches.
  • It can be used in spacecraft to provide electrical energy.

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