How Do Solar Panels Work?
We’ve all heard about the benefits of solar power, from homes to farms. For many decades, it has been said to be an opportune alternative energy source. They can be found on roadside signs and rooftop. But how exactly do they work? What is the process taken in solar energy?
A solar panel, simply put, allows photons or particles of light, to knock electrons free from atoms, proceeding to generate a flow of electricity. Solar panels are usually constructed of smaller units called photovoltaic cells. Photovoltaic cells, though the word sounds big and serious, simply convert sunlight into energy, the basis of solar energy. Many little cells come together to make a solar panel.
In order for the photovoltaic cells to work, they need to first derive an electric field. Similar to a magnetic field, which occurs due to opposite poles, an electric field occurs when opposite charges are separated.To achieve this field, manufacturers “dope” silicon with other materials, giving them a positive or negative electrical charge.
Manufacturers seed phosphorous into the very top layer of silicon, which results in an addition of extra electrons, which have a negative charge, to that layer. Meanwhile, the bottom layer receives a dose of boron, which results in fewer electrons, or a positive charge. All of this adds up to an electric field at the intersection between the silicon layers. When a photon of sunlight knocks an electron loose, the electric field will push that electron out of the silicon junction.
Cells are turned into usable power by other components. Metal conductive plates inside the cell collect the electrons and transfer them to wires. The electrons can then flow similar to any other source of electricity. Other types of solar power technology include solar thermal and concentrated solar power (CSP). These other types of solar power technology operate differently from photovoltaic solar panels. However, they all harness sunlight to heat up water or air, or to create either electricity.