How Does a Solar Panel Work?

solar panel system

One of the most well-known types of ‘green’ or eco friendly energy is solar power. Most people understand the very basic concept: Solar power harnesses the energy from the sun directly to create electricity.

But how exactly does solar power work? What does solar power look like in action? Fewer people are able to answer those questions, and solar power remains a somewhat mysterious concept to a large segment of the population.

To understand solar power, it’s necessary to understand what a solar panel is, and how it works.

What is a Solar Panel?

There are a number of ways to harness solar power. They can be as primitive as just designing a building to be warmed by the sun during the day. Or as complex as using cutting-edge polymers and compounds to create intricate chemical reactions. But the most prominent and widely used is harnessing solar power with a solar panel.

Companies like Gem Energy Rockhampton Solar Power have developed a number of applications of solar power for commercial and residential use, and solar panels feature prominently in many of them.

A solar panel as a whole is a collection of smaller parts. Each solar panel is a grouping of photovoltaic cells. Each photovoltaic cell is where the sun’s energy is harvested and transformed into electricity. Using a solar panel may reduce your electricity bill as well as you should check your plumbing issues to make your drainage system work properly.

A photovoltaic cell works on the principle of letting a photon (a particle of light) strike atoms within the cell to dislodge electrons from those atoms. Displacing these electrons causes electricity to flow. Of course, there’s more detail to the process, some of which is fairly scientific in nature.

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The Inner Workings of a Photovoltaic Cell

The structure of a photovoltaic cell is two layers of a semi-conducting material like silicon, with a central area between the slices where the energy conversion takes place. You may be familiar with silicon as the material used in microelectronic devices like your computer or smartphone.

In order for a photovoltaic cell to function, it’s necessary to create an energy field. The way to create an energy field is to bridge the gap between two objects with opposite charges. This means that the two slices of silicon need to have different charges.

The industry standard when creating photovoltaic cells is to make the top slice of silicon negative and the bottom slice positive.

To make the top positive, the silicon in question is laced with phosphorus, a process that adds electrons. This makes its charge negative. The bottom slice is made to be positive by seeding boron into the silicon, which causes fewer electrons to be present.

Now, there’s an electronic field in between the two layers of silicon.

The photovoltaic field is put in a spot where the sun will shine directly onto it. As photons pass through the electronic field, they strike electrons and knock them free, and the electron passes out of the electronic field created between the silicon slices.

This type of reaction happens countless times, and the aggregate result is millions of electrons flowing along a path of photovoltaic cells.

Using the Energy Created

These photovoltaic cells making up a solar panel have created raw electricity. But how is that electricity harnessed?

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At the side of a photovoltaic cell are conductive metal plates. These plates absorb the electrons produced by the reaction within the cell. The electrons are transferred to wires, and now the electricity is flowing just like any other energy source.

The most common type of solar panel most people will encounter are ones sitting on the roof or another exposed location on a building or home. These solar panels are generally large, anywhere from several feet to more than a dozen feet in length.

However, there are a number of other ways that solar panels can be constructed and used, especially with advances in modern technology. Some of the newest models of solar cells can hardly be called panels anymore – They’re as thin as 1.3 microns in thickness. To give you an idea, a human hair is 50 microns thick, and human beings usually can’t see anything smaller than 40 microns.

These newly developed solar cells are incredibly lightweight and flexible, and they function as efficiently as traditionally constructed solar panels. The applications in developing more portable and lightweight devices harnessing solar energy are exciting.

By: Eric Reyes

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