Inside The Solar Panel – Qantum Effect And Photo Voltaics

We briefly mentioned the term ‘photo voltaic’ on the How Solar Power Works page of this site. Here we take a deeper look into what really is behind this effect and how it is the backbone of solar panel function and operation. The development of ‘photo voltaics’ – the process of converting the sun’s visible spectrum radiation into electricity has come a long way in the last 20 years but much of the ‘credit’ for the development of the underlying principles of solar cell operation go back further than that – to the pioneers of modern day quantum physics. Physicists like Planck and Schrodinger were credited with much of the initial work around quantum physics which was a model that attempted to describe the behaviour of electrons within atoms and more particularly the way the atoms moved in discrete energy levels or ‘quanta’ of energy. This discovery, at least in basic terms, demonstrated that when electrons were ‘excited’, by, for example in the case of solar radiation, sunlight striking a suitably modified piece of silicon, that the electrons within that material would experience an ‘increase’ in their energy levels by a very specific amount. This amount of increased electron energy was not a ‘randomly defined’ amount of energy but, to the contrary, was found to be determined by quantifiable ‘steps’ of energy. Einstein was the first to discover and document this ‘photo-voltaic’ effect, which became the cornerstone of the modern day solar panel. The video below gives a reasonable explanation of the photo voltaic effect in silicon – the most commonly used semiconductor in solar panels:

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