If you’re reading this, then you already know that solar cells are the tiny bits that solar panels are made of, and their job is to effectively absorb sunlight so that it can be converted into usable electricity.
However, if you’ve ever wondered what exactly these solar cells are, then you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we’ll cover questions like: What are solar cells? What materials are they made out of? And do they come in different varieties? Read on for more.
What Are Solar Cells?
Solar cells are responsible for producing electricity from sunlight, and they can also be referred to as photovoltaic cells or PVs. However, don’t mistake them for photovoltaic thermal cells (PVT), whose job is to heat up the water you use in your home.
When put together in a particular arrangement, PV cells become a solar panel. These PV cells are made from silicon semiconductors that have the ability to harvest sunlight and then transform it into usable electricity. Most of the solar panels that are used for residential applications are able to harvest only 20% of the sunlight that they’re exposed to, which is then transformed into electricity that’s used to power up the home through a process known as solar efficiency.
Now, there are other types of solar cells out there that are designed for commercial and industrial applications and these are able to achieve a solar efficiency of up to 40%. However, they are more expensive than residential units.
The Materials Found in Solar Cells
The following materials are used to build solar cells:
As the name implies, these cells are created using single crystalline silicon. Monocrystalline cells are rod-shaped and often have a distinct color. Most manufacturers of monocrystalline cells prefer to leave out the four sides of the monocrystalline cells in order to cut costs without compromising on quality and performance. While this is a wasteful practice, it’s also what’s responsible for their unique appearance. Monocrystalline cells are mostly known for their impressive level of quality and performance, as they’re seen as being the most efficient of the available options.
Polycrystalline Solar Cells
Polycrystalline solar panels came after monocrystalline cells and they made their first entrance into the world in 1981. When making polycrystalline solar cells, manufacturers use melted silicon, which is molded into perfectly shaped squares using a precast. This means that they don’t have to cut the four sides like they do with monocrystalline cells. Out of the three options, polycrystalline solar cells are of mid-range quality, performance and price.
Thin-Film Solar Cells
In order to create thin-film solar cells, manufacturers stack thin layers of photovoltaic to build a single module.
The types of PV layers used will determine the type of thin-film solar cell that’s created, and there are different varieties to choose from, including:
- Organic PV cells
- Amorphous silicon
- Copper indium gallium selenide
- Cadmium telluride
Although thin-film solar cells are an affordable option, this comes at a cost because they’re not as efficient as their monocrystalline and polycrystalline counterparts. With that said, thin-film solar cells have a lot of future potential when compared to the other two.