How do solar panels work?

Types of degradation

How do solar panels work?

Ever wondered where solar panels are made of? How they work and where the energy comes from? The secrets of solar panels are about to be revealed in this article.

Solar panels transform solar energy in electricity through solar cells. It is a very delicate process and new methods are discovered every day in order to improve the efficiency of solar panels.

A story of Silicon

Solar panels are made of solar cells, which consist of Silicon placed under a thin slice of glass. Silicon is an isolator by nature, but by doting other materials it becomes conductive. Because it hasn’t the same characteristics as a pure conductor it is called a semi-conductor. Treated silicon is the key ingredient in solar cells.

So how does it work?

Sunlight is composed of tiny particles called photons which radiate from the sun.
When the sunlight hits the panel its photons knock the electrons from the silicon which basically create an electric voltage that can be collected and then used to produce electricity.

Freeing those electrons is half the job of the solar cell. The next step is to gather these stray electrons in an electric current. This involves creating an imbalance within the cell, which will act as a slope down on which the electrons will go towards the same direction.

The creation of this disequilibrium is only possible by the internal reorganisation of silicon. The atoms of silicon are arranged together in a small tightly structure. By squeezing small quantities of other elements in this structure, two different types of silicon are created: type “n”, which has spare electrons and type “p” which has a shortage of electrons.
When a silicon op type “n” and a silicon of type “p”are placed next to each other inside a solar cell, the spare electrons of type “n” jump over to fill the shortage of electrons in the type “p” silicon. This means that the silicon type “n” charges itself positively and the type “p” silicon charges negatively, which creates an electric field through the cell.

Then what?

The electrical current created is called « direct current » (DC). It means that the electrons flow in one direction around a circuit. In order to be able to use this direct current in your house you will need to convert it into alternating current (AC).
An inverter takes the DC electricity created by the solar cells and transforms it in « alternating current » (AC) electricity.
Solar panels are green energy and have an average life span of 25 years and are a good investment on the long-term. So why not getting solar panels for your roof?

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