) meaning "light", and "voltaic",meaning electric, from the name of theItalianphysicistVolta,after whom a unit of electro-motive force, thevolt,is named. The term "photo-voltaic" has been in use in English since 1849.
,which was discovered while working on the series of advances that would lead to thetransistor .The modern age of solar power technology arrived in 1954 whenBell Laboratories,experimenting with semiconductors, accidentally found that silicon doped with certain impuritieswas very sensitive to light.Daryl Chapin,with Bell Labs colleaguesCalvin Fuller andGeraldPearson, invented the first practical device for converting sunlight into useful electrical power.
This resulted in the production of the first useful solar cell with a sunlight energy conversionefficiency of around 6%.The solar battery was first demonstrated on April 25, 1954. The firstspacecraft to use solar panels was the US satelliteVanguard 1,launched in March 1958 withsolar cells made byHoffman Electronics. This milestone created interest in producing andlaunching ageostationarycommunicationssatellite, in which solar energy would provide aviable power supply. This was a crucial development which stimulated funding from severalgovernments into research for improved solar cells.In 1970 the first highly effectiveGallium arsenideheterostructuresolar cells were created byZhores Alferovand his team in theUSSR .