computer hardware, consumer electronics, electronic components  

Photovoltaic cell, solar cell

A photovoltaic cell, also commonly referred to as solar cell, is an electrical device formed of semiconductor material able to absorb radiant light energy and convert it directly into electrical energy. Solar photovoltaic cells produce a voltage across output terminals when exposed to sunlight, and typically a plurality of solar cells are interconnected in series to produce a desired voltage. A photovoltaic cell generally comprises a stacked structure of at least one layer of semiconductor material of the p-type and a layer of semiconductor material of the n-type for generating electrical charge carriers under the influence of photons incident on the interface of these layers. Under sunlight illumination, such cells generate a voltage difference between the top and bottom of the cell. To use this electrical energy, electrical current paths are provided to carry sunlight-generated current from the top of the cell through the desired electrical load and back to the bottom of the cell. The photovoltaic cell is considered a major candidate for obtaining energy from sun, since it can convert sunlight directly to electricity with high conversion efficiency, can provide nearly permanent power at low operating cost without having any influence on the climate. Solar cells are commonly used as a primary or secondary power source for small electronic devices that have low electrical power requirements, such as hand-held calculators. More complex systems such as solar panels provide electricity for pumping water, powering communications equipment, lighting, and various appliances.

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