When the sun shines on a solar panel, it is hitting the panel with particles of light called “photons.” The panels allow the photons to knock electrons from from atoms and in turn, generate a flow of electricity.
- Atoms are the basic building blocks of matter consisting of protons (a positive electrical charge), neutrons (no electrical charge), and electrons (a negative electrical charge)
So how exactly does a solar panel work?
- Solar panels comprise of many, smaller units called photovoltaic cells
- Photovoltaic means they convert sunlight into energy
- Each photovoltaic cell is basically a sandwich made up of two slices of semiconducting material
- Usually silicon, the same material used in microelectronics
- In order to work, photovoltaic cells need to establish an electric field (similar to a magnetic field).
- To create the electric field, one half of the “sandwich” must have a negative charge and the other a positive one.
- Phosphorous is seeded into the top layer of silicon; adding extra electrons and creating a negative charge.
- Boron is added to the bottom silicon layer, resulting in fewer electrons and creating a positive charge.
- Between the negative and positive charges, an electric field is formed.
- When sunlight hits the solar panel, the photons knock the electrons free and the electric field pushes the electron out.
- Metal conductive plates on the sides of the cell collect the electrons and transfer them into wires.
- Once transferred into wires, the electrons work like any other source of electricity.