How Do Solar Panels Work?

10 Jan 2018

Today, we live in a world where energy is an integral part of our lives. Energy and power is something that we use in almost every interaction we are a part of, whether it’s from the power that cools and lights our homes, to charging our phones and other devices, and so much more.

With this increased dependence on power, many companies have turned to find a way that allows them to harness renewable forms of energy. One such way of doing this is through the use of solar power. You’ve probably heard of people using solar power to charge their devices, power their homes, and so much more.

This is done through the use of solar panels. So you might be wondering, how do these solar panels work?

Harnessing the Sun’s Rays

Solar energy has been touted as one of the most promising forms of alternative energy. They work by allowing particles of light, known as photons, to knock electrons away from atoms. This generates a flow of electricity.

These solar panels are made up of a large number of smaller units. These are called photovoltaic cells, with the term “voltaic” simply meaning that they convert sunlight into a form of electricity useful to humans. Many of these cells are linked to one another to create a solar panel.

A Closer Look at Photovoltaic Cells

A photovoltaic cell is essentially a sandwich constructed from two pieces of semi-conducting material. This material, in most cases, is silicon—which is the same material used in microelectronics.

In order to be functional, the photovoltaic cell needs to establish a field of electricity. Similar to a magnetic field, which forms from opposite poles, a field of electricity occurs when you separate opposite charges. In order to create this field, manufacturers “dope” the silicon with other types of materials. This gives each piece of this “sandwich” a negative or positive electrical charge.

Typically, this involves including phosphorus into the silicon on the top layer, adding more electrons and giving that layer a negative charge. At the same time, the layer on the bottom is seeded with boron, which creates fewer electrons and results in a positive charge.

The result? An electric field in the function between these two layers of silicon. From there, when a photon of sunlight is introduced into the equation and knocks free an electron, the electric field pushes said electron out of the silicon function.

Other components included in each photovoltaic cell then turn these electrons into a form of power that is useful to us. Metal conductive places added to the cell’s sides are used to collect these electrons and transfer them into wires. From there, the electrons are able to flow just like any other power source.

The Future of Solar Panels

As with any form of technology, solar panels are undergoing constant developments and improvements. Recently, new solar cells have been developed to be flexible and ultrathin, at only 1.3 microns thick – 1/100th the thickness of a human strand of hair. They are also 20 times lighter than a piece of paper. These cells are so light that they are able to sit atop a bubble of soap. Yet, they are still able to produce energy with the same efficiency level as glass-based solar cells.

The benefit of this comes with the ability to be able to incorporate them into aerospace technology, architecture, and even wearable electronics! So, as you can see, the development of solar panels has only just begun!

The Verdict

Now you have a general understanding of how solar power is used to convert the sun’s rays into energy. The technology is very advanced—and is only going to continue improving from here.

With these solar panels, we can use the energy they create to do everything from powering our homes to powering spacecraft—and a number of the things we do on a daily basis! If you think you want to start implementing solar power into your home and life, get in touch with us today to have them installed by professional solar panels companies in the UK!

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