Industrial gas in…The manufacture of photovoltaic solar cells


While delving into the intricacies of how photovoltaic (PV) cells are produced and the vital role that silicon (Si) plays in the technology, it also becomes clear how the introduction of minute quantities of impurities like phosphorous and boron transform this electrically neutral, tetravalent metalloid, into versatile semiconductor materials that form the basis of most PV cells developed to date.

First noted by a French Physicist, Edmund Bequerel in 1839, and explained by Albert Einstein in 1905, the photoelectric effect is the phenomenon upon which PV technology is based.

Electromagnetic radiation transmits energy through space; the spectrum of visible light occurs in the wavelength range from 400-700 nm while the shorter wavelength (higher frequency) range is identified as ultraviolet and longer wavelength (lower frequency) characterises the infrared range.

PV cells are made from semiconductor materials and designed to generate an output voltage when exposed to electromagnetic radiation in the ultra violet and visible light spectrum. When connected together in sufficient numbers to form PV panels, PV modules and PV arrays, they are capable of providing electric power either for driving off-grid equipment or to supplement grid power distribution systems.

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