How Do Photovoltaic Cells Work?

Before we know how do photovoltaic cells work, let’s try to figure out the history of photovoltaic cells. PV cells are superior. Photovoltaic cells (PV cells) can be traced back to the early 1800s. However, French physicist Edmond Becquerel built the first photovoltaic cell in 1839.

This cell was made of selenium and had an efficiency of about 1%. American inventor Charles Fritts built the first solid-state photovoltaic cell in 1883 by coating a thin selenium layer with a thin gold layer to form better junctions. But it was only around 1% efficient.

There has been significant progress in the development of PV cells after 1950. Efficiency has increased to over 20%. It has made solar energy a more viable option for generating electricity.

Solar cells were used on the Vanguard I satellite in 1958. It was the first satellite to orbit the Earth. It helped to raise awareness of solar energy and its potential applications. But nowadays solar cells are used in a wide variety of applications, including powering homes, businesses, and vehicles. They are also used in remote areas where there is no access to the electrical grid.

What is a Photovoltaic Cell?

Solar PV cell means solar photo voltaic cell. A photovoltaic cell or solar cell is an electronic device. It is made up of different types of components like Silicon, germanium, Arsenide, Copper indium, Cadmium telluride, etc. Most photovoltaic cells are made of Silicon due to their higher efficiency than some other components.

However, silicon material is a semiconductor device whenever sunlight falls on the photovoltaic cell sunlight is converted into DC power by a special process. Basically, solar PV cells work for power production to meet the daily load demand. But how do photovoltaic cells work? The solar PV cell started its journey in 1954 from Bell Laboratories. Nowadays it has taken a leading part around the world in generating electricity. 

What is Solar Energy?

Solar energy is cosmic energy. It is radiant energy that emits from the sun. Solar energy is a clean, cheapest, and renewable energy that is indispensable for human life. Sun is only the source of solar energy. Whenever sunlight falls on the solar panel then the solar panel particle is exposed to generate electricity. Nowadays solar energy is used to generate electricity because it is a renewable energy source and there is no chance to end this energy source.

Basically, a natural energy source in the world is decreasing arithmetically. For this reason, renewable energy sources can be the key to generating a large amount of energy. People are generating electricity by using solar energy to meet the daily load demand. However, we have discussed here solar PV cells working for power production. So take a look at how solar energy can be used to produce electricity by a special plant.

How are Solar Panels Manufactured?

How solar panels are made? The solar panel is used to convert sunlight into electrical energy to meet the daily load demand. However, there is a story about making solar panels that we are going to share with you. The solar panel is also called a solar module. However, the solar PV module manufacturing process is not so easy. Those are top solar panel manufacturers they also tirelessly work to manufacture efficient solar panels.

Basically, solar PV cells made up of silicon and it is the main element of the solar plate manufacturing process. First of all, silicon sands are collected from nature (there is plenty of silicon in nature) and this silicon sand is used to create solar panels. In this case, silica sands are cooked at 20000 C in a furnace along with the source of carbon. These melted silicon sands are cooled and create metallurgical-grade silicon. It is not the end here, the impurity is removed from this metallurgical grade silicon and blended with phosphorous and Boron.


After this event, it was sliced into tiny wafers less than 0.2mm thick. Now it is ready to coat with silicon nitride. After the silicon coating, the silver is pasted on the front and rare surface. In this case, your solar panel is ready. This is a solar manufacturing or solar module manufacturing process. Now, this solar panel is tested manually to ensure that it is working properly. In this case, artificial heat is provided on the panel and checked whether is it efficient or not. If the manual test becomes successful then these solar panel is ready to install to get electricity.

How Does a Solar Panel System Work?

How PV cells work? The working process of the solar panel is a bit difficult. We see the plane shape of the solar panel but some difficult work happens within it. However, let’s get some crucial knowledge about solar PV cells working for power production. The main theme of the solar panel working is to generate electricity using sunlight. If we would like to generate electricity by using solar panels then we need silicon.

If we mix silicon dioxide and carbon and heat it to 20000 C then we get silicon. The atomic number of silicon is 14, its atomic weight is 28.086, and it is the most efficient device to generate electricity from sunlight. Silicon is a semiconductor device. In some conditions electricity can flow through it and sometimes electricity cannot flow through it. There are four electrons in the outer shell but we cannot use this silicon directly in the solar cell.

In this case, doping is most necessary for silicon. Doping means we need to increase some energy by providing extra energy. There are two types of doping in silicon: the first one is aluminum and phosphorous. The special feature of aluminum is there are three electrons in its outer shell but silicon has four electrons. If we doped with silicon and aluminum then we need one electron. Though there is a lack of one electron, that’s why this doping is called Positive doping (P-Type).

This object finds one electron to fulfill eight electrons if a P-type object has eight electrons then it becomes stable. On the other hand, phosphorous has five electrons if we doped silicon with phosphorous then silicon has four electrons and phosphorous has five electrons. In this case, one electron becomes extra. Though an electron carries a negative charge that’s why it is called negative doping (N-Type). Though this negative doping (N-Type) has an extra electron that’s why it wants to give it to someone.

We have seen that positive doping wants to get an electron and negative doping wants to release an electron. This N-type doping is called negative silicon and P-type doping is called positive silicon. For this reason, silicon is divided into two for creating solar cells one is N-Type and the other is P-Type. If we bring N-type and P-type doping closer then the electron will flow from negative to positive. We know that whenever an electron flows from negative to positive then we get electricity.

It does not end here, there is a layer between N-Type and P-Type which is called the depletion layer. Due to this depletion layer, they cannot exchange electrons between them. For this reason, a separate root is given to get electricity from the outer side. Whenever an electron flows from negative to positive then we can use a battery to charge up. It is noted that electrons cannot easily flow from N-type to P-type.


In this case, sunlight is applied to heat the N-type particles and electrons easily flow to the P-type. Basically, the N-type is on top, and the P-type is on the bottom. Basically, our biggest discussion is the main working procedure for the solar panel. It is noted that we get DC power from the solar panel but we need AC power. In this case, we have to convert DC power into AC power by helping a solar inverter.

Do Solar Panels Work During a Power Outage?

In a Grid-tied system, you will not get electricity due to the better safety factor. If the power goes out then your appliances may have to make repairs on their distribution network. There may be a failed transformer that requires repair. Restore power to several thousand customers may face risk if any fault occurs.

That’s why the traditional grid-tied solar systems must turn off whenever the power goes out. On the other hand, if you have a direct connection or if you don’t use batteries then you will not get power whenever the sunlight shuts off (night period). On the other hand, if you use a battery, you can use this DC storage power whenever sunlight is unavailable (night period).

How do Solar Panels Work When There is No Sun?

Can solar panels work at night? The direct answer is no. The solar panel does not work at night. If there is no sun then the solar panel become fails to generate electricity. In-depth, we have seen above if N-type doping would like to share electrons with P-type then we need to generate the heat that we get from sunlight on a sunny day. In the off-sun period (night, or when there is no sun) no electron becomes exchanged between P-type and N-type doping. Basically, we get solar energy from sunlight.

That’s why solar cells cannot work during the off-sun period. How does solar power work at night? Basically, solar power works through two main processes: direct process and indirect process. The solar cell works directly on sunny days and generates a lot of electricity but some of these do not use and most of them are stored in batteries which are called indirect energy. However, the battery is stored DC power this DC power is converted into AC power by using an inverter to run electronic appliances at night.

Is There Any Difference Between Photovoltaic Cells and Solar Cells?

Photovoltaic cells and solar cells are often used interchangeably. There is indeed a slight difference between them. The word photovoltaic comes from the Greek words photo (light) and voltaic means (electric current). A solar cell is a specific type of photovoltaic cell that is designed to capture the energy from sunlight. So, all solar cells are photovoltaic cells, but not all photovoltaic cells are solar cells.

There is a table that summarizes the key differences between photovoltaic cells and solar cells.

FeaturePhotovoltaic CellSolar Cell
DefinitionA device that converts light energy into electrical energyA specific type of photovoltaic cell that is designed to capture the energy from sunlight
OriginGreek words “photo” (light) and “voltaic” (electric current)Latin word “sol” (sun)
UseCan be used to capture energy from any type of light sourceDesigned to capture the energy from sunlight
EfficiencyVaries depending on the type of cell, but typically around 20%Varies depending on the type of cell, but typically around 15-20%
CostVaries depending on the type of cell, but typically around $1-$2 per wattVaries depending on the type of cell, but typically around $2-$3 per watt

What Is the Future of PV Cells?

The future of PV cells is bright. Scientists are continuing to work to improve efficiency and cost minimization. Solar energy is becoming a more attractive option for generating electricity. This is good news for the environment due to becoming a clean and renewable energy source. Solar cells have a touch of new technology. For this reason, PV cells are being improved. So, we can expect to see even more progress in the future of PV cells.

Do Solar Panels Need Direct Sunlight to Charge?

Yes, solar panels work in direct sunlight to charge but they can also work without it. Indeed solar PV cell is able to generate electricity and they can work on direct and indirect sunlight. Basically, direct and indirect sunlight carries photon that is responsible for generating electricity. If something happens that there is no sunlight (cloudy sky) after also that PV cells will generate electricity using indirect sunlight.

Do Solar Panels Work When Covered in Snow?

Solar panels work well on sunny days. If a solar cell is covered by snow there is no chance to fall sunlight on the solar panel due to snow. In that case, the solar panel will not work. There is one thing if snow falls on your solar panel then take the snow off from the solar panel and let your panel get a minimum heat to generate electricity and let your battery charge up. This undesired situation happens in the winter season. It is noted that if the snow becomes heavy on your PV cell the panel will never be destroyed and you don’t need to use water to clean it or if you want you can use water to clean it.


We get solar energy from the sun and solar energy is a renewable energy source that is used to generate electricity. Solar energy will never end until destroys the world. Basically, solar energy is undoubtedly a trustworthy and long-term basis renewable energy source. However, we have shown how PV cells work and we have also shown how photovoltaic cells work to produce electricity. So let’s start to use solar panels and save our environment from the greenhouse effect. If you would like to know more about solar panels and some other energy sources then you may stay with openread.

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Advantages and Disadvantages of Solar Energy,

Photovoltaic Panels Construction and Manufacturing Process.

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