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A Review of David Toub Photovoltaic Cells
Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Rochester, Rochester New York 14627 allowable energies of electrons which have received some form of energy and are no longer bound to host atoms. Semiconductors, characterized as being perfect insulators at absolute zero, become increasingly conductive as temperature is increased. As temperature becomes greater, sufficient energy is transferred to a small fraction of electrons, causing them to move from the valence band to the conduction band and holes to move from the conduction band to the valence band. The increase in temperature responsible for this entire process is a direct result of external energy; in the case of PV systems, it is incident photons due to illumination [1,2,4].

Abstract— Photovoltaic cells provide an additional method of acquiring energy, converting sunlight directly into electricity through the use of semiconductors. Effective photovoltaic implementation is reviewed, focusing on semiconductor properties and overall photovoltaic system configuration. Index Terms—energy conversion efficiency, photovoltaic, PV, solar cell

I. INTRODUCTION Energy policies have pushed for different technologies to decrease pollutant emissions and reduce global climate change. Photovoltaic technology (PV), which utilizes sunlight to generate energy, is an attractive alternate energy source because it is renewable, harmless, and domestically secure. Because PV technology’s basic component is the PV cell which produces less than three watts on average, cells must be bundled in series/parallel configurations known as PV modules or solar cells to achieve high powered tasks. PV arrays produce power only when illuminated, and it is therefore standard to employ a large energy storage mechanism, most commonly a series of rechargeable batteries. To prevent harmful battery overcharge and overdischarge conditions and to drive AC loads, a charge controller and an AC to DC converter must be implemented [1]. The primary objective is to optimize PV cells and energy storage and to increase overall system efficiency. In order to discuss optimization, one must have a basic understanding of how PV cells and storage mechanisms function. II. FUNCTIONALITY PV functionality relies upon the absorption of light within a bulk or semiconductor material, most commonly a silicon pn diode, providing a medium in which incident photons can be converted to energy, usually in the form of heat. When absorbed, a photon transfers energy to an electron in the absorbing material and if the magnitude of incident photon energy is greater than the electron’s work function, the photon may raise an electron’s energy state or even liberate an electron. Once liberated, the electrons are then free to move around the semiconductor material influenced by present phenomena of diffusion, temperature, and electric field [1, 2, 3]. The quantum theory of semiconductor devices states that all semiconductors have a gap between their valence and conduction bands. The valence band represents all allowable energies of valence electrons that are bound covalently to neighboring host atoms, and the conductive band represents all

Under the photoelectric effect, because photons incident upon a pn diode can create electron-hole pairs at a cross material junction, an electric potential difference across this junction can be established. Under no illumination, electrons and holes are separated at n and p regions respectively due to the diode characteristic unidirectional current path. When illuminated, PV cells are impacted by incident photons which bombard cell electrons creating electron hole pairs. These electron hole pairs then separate in response to the electric

When considering loss. It should be noted that open circuit voltage is only logarithmically dependent on cell illumination while the short circuit current is directly proportional. module area and irradiance (power for electromagnetic radiation at a surface). These cells are less expensive and although they can cover a full solar cell. To achieve good conduction within the semiconductor. their support structures. a metallic cell grid reduces electron travel distance. the extra energy is lost. In the case of bulk devices. Because PV cells are highly expensive. This increase of internal reflection helps to boost nanocrystalline PV cell efficiency to over 40% [10. FUTURE ADVANCEMENTS Although 86% of PV cells are designed with this first generation semiconductor approach. Poly-C or multicrystalline silicon (poly-Si or mc-Si) is formed from large blocks of molten silicon carefully cooled and solidified. These groups are separated by crystallinity and crystal size in the ingot or wafer. Photons. nanocrystalline solar cells increase efficiency as they are covered with an extremely thin coating of mesoporous metal oxide whose high surface area helps to increase internal reflections and ultimately light absorption probability and efficiency. yielding more loss [1. they can be stacked to form multiple layer film cells which yield an average of 30% efficiency while standard semiconductor efficiency is limited to 14% [9]. they are less efficient. a solar cell can now be designed [5. Once VTC conditions are found. To achieve good conduction surrounding the semiconductor.11]. Changes in wind complicate the job of a structural engineer. Ribbon silicon is formed by drawing flat thin films from molten silicon but having a multicrystalline structure. Monocrystalline or single crystalline silicon (c-Si) tends to be expensive. resulting in reduced processing costs but also reduced energy conversion efficiency. if a photon possesses much more energy than the required band gap energy.7]. If this grid is too large.2 field created by the cell junction. but are extremely inexpensive due to reduced silicon waste [5. possessing a wide range of energies. the cell bottom is completely covered with metal while top cell metal must be transparent or specially arranged as not to block incident photons and further increase loss. maximum power efficiency is desired.8]. the optimal efficiencyvoltage trade off results when a semiconductor with a band gap of 1. Because these phenomena hinder PV designs to an average of 30% energy conversion efficiency. Because these thin films are nearly mass-less. When considering semiconductor variety. and snow and ice for certain climates. causing electrons to drift back into the n region. V. As such. A designer must consider the load bearing weight of heavy modules. EXTERNAL D ESIGN CONSIDERATIONS One important design aspect often underestimated is the structure used to support the PV array. The VTC graph in figure 3 illustrates that the cell has both a limiting voltage and current so open circuit and short circuit operating conditions will not be detrimental to its function. Energy conversion efficiency represents the percentage of power converted and collected when a solar cell is connected to an electrical circuit. and does not completely cover a square solar cell module as it is cut from cylindrical ingots. Thin film technologies reduce the required mass of light absorbing material. With basic PV function understood. it will block incident photons while if the grid is too small. semiconductor selection and contact layout is of primary importance. a designer’s ultimate goal is to implement cell layout and composition to meet efficiency specifications [6. A bidirectional current path is created and energy can be harnessed. Utilizing the same thin-film light absorbing materials. Efficiency can be measured by dividing the maximum power by the product of total solar . These cells have lower efficiencies than poly-Si. the actual material composition and layout of the cell must be determined [1. resistance will increase.7]. mainly =Pm/(E x Ac) [8]. the short circuit current simply becomes the photon induced current while the open circuit voltage can be found by setting the cell current to 0. various groups of crystalline silicon are used.4]. as shown by equations 3a and 3b respectfully [1.7]. and holes into the p region.6] III.6].4 eV is used [1. IV. PV CELL DESIGN Because a PV cell is a simple pn diode. Low band gap energy allows photon energy to be more efficiently transferred to electrons but results in a decreased electric field which in turn reduces voltage. the well known voltage transfer characteristic equations will be incorporated into the design process. At the same time. Under zero applied voltage. may or may not overcome band gap energy to knock an electron loose. these characteristic equations provide a means of determining ideal PV cell performance limits. one must be familiar with PV’s inherent problems and design considerations. thereby decreasing resistance and ultimately loss. resulting in unequal stress and tension dispersion throughout To establish cell composition and layout. second and third generation cells consist of thin film deposits and electron confined nanoparticle materials. This maximum point can be determined through differentiation or by inputting open circuit and short circuit values into the maximum power equation Pm = Vmax x Imax.

Because PV cells represent an alternate energy source. Hilger New York. PV cells are ideal energy candidates in areas where electric-grid extensions are not offered. Prentice-Hall. solar cells can generate electricity even on a cloudy day. if the speed is constant. remote water pumping stations.” Advanced Materials. Downloaded from www.” IIASA Publications. Ventre. 1986 [6] Green. Part 1 : native substrates. this composite can be simply sprayed onto almost any material to serve as portable electricity [13]. Photovoltaic Engineering Handbook TG Ang . University of Applied Science. 183185 Research Laboratories. 2000. Rochester. Jerry. satellites. Verlag GmbH & Co. In the most popular application of a solar powered house. one must inquire about PV applications. The AC power enters the utility panel in the house and is then distributed to appliances throughout the house. A piece of clothing coated with this composite could power a cell phone or other wireless devices.” 2001 [12] Lovgren.” -. Given a simple PV-fan system example where a solar module powers a fan. 286-287 American Association of Physics Teachers. “Organic Solar Cells. 1991.Volume 48. technology. shuttles. Among the most impressive of PV improvements and applications lies within nanotechnology. “Photovoltaic technology: the case for thin-film solar cells.MichelleJ. Switzerland. Volume 3. 1990 [8] O’Regan. and utility grid sources [1]. Messenger. automobiles. [10] Wohlre. Researchers envision futuristic "solar farms" where this plastic material could be rolled across deserts to supply enough clean energy for the entire planet's power needs [13]. Often overlooked is pollution and midair debris which may adhere to the photocells and hinder illumination and photon interaction. Because the sun delivers ten thousand times more energy than people currently consume. Issue 3. send DC current through an inverter which transforms the signal to 120 or 240-volt to utilize AC appliances. 2004 [2] Harmon. M. one must consider how much energy is required to perform the desired auxiliary function. A film coated hydrogen powered automobile could continually recharge a car's battery. and ultimately decide on a battery provided this Ah rating. This altered load can impact the PV cell’s maximum power point and must be considered [1. they are not yet cost competitive with fossil fuel-based generators and are only regularly used where there is no nearby power source. CH-2400 Le Locle. “Spray-On Solar Power Cells Are True Breakthrough. Photovoltaic advancements in the fields of thin film and nanocrystalline materials will continue to flourish and soon increase PV efficiency to over 50%. photovoltaic improvements will one day replace environmentally unfriendly power plants with a proven and clean energy source [13]. APPLICATIONS With function and design in mind.. Applied Physics Letters -. VII. environmentally friendly power source is desired. Electricity that is not used will be recycled and reused in other facilities [6. invisible rays. CRC Press Technology and Industrial. pp. The PV module orientation must be modified to reflect a specific angle of incidence corresponding to the pollution altered index or refraction [6].January on 12/02/06. Eastman Kodak Company. pp. Klaus J. . and system applications. Photovoltaic Systems Engineering. A. Avenue de l'Hotel-de-Ville 7. Catchpole. Torres. and how often the fan will be used without illumination. Common examples include solar fountain pumps. When designing a storage system. Stefan. Tscharner. R. Issue 2. Dieter.” Nature 353. March 1993 [5] “Two layer organic Photovoltaic Cell. KGaA. a designer must determine how fast the fan must spin. which allowed scientists to create a plastic spray-on PV cell that can utilize the sun’s infrared. It is also important to consider parasitic capacitance and resistance effects due to storage mechanism-PV cell interconnects so a corrected PV system load can be evaluated. New York. VI.Volume 61.” Wikipeda. Inc. Because the infrared spectrum is utilized. Englewood Cliffs. REFERENCES [1] Ventre. P. B. M.” National Geographic News. “Experience Curves of Photovoltaic Technology.7].wikipedia. & Grätzel. 737–740 (1991). A. [3] “Photovoltaics. Gerard. compute an Ah power requirement. its applications are endless. [9] Shah. “A review of thin film crystalline silicon for solar cell applications.. Common examples of PV devices include roof-top residential/commercial systems.A. resulting in reduced cost. PV cells absorb photons. water heaters. “A low-cost.KylieR. [11] McCann.7]. C.” Neuchatel. high efficiency solar cell based on dye-sensitized colloidal TiO2 films. Weber. Dieter. PV technology will attract a greater number of people. and traffic lights [6]. stand alone battery chargers. 1982 [7] F Lasnier. and where a clean. telecommunications equipment. The amount of power to run an appliance is normally provided in Ampere Hours (Ah) obtained by dividing energy by voltage. A designer can determine how long the fan is to function without illumination. Issue 3. Switzerland. Because current PV systems are still highly inefficient and uncommon. NJ. The Free Encyclopedia. CONCLUSION PV cells are a proven environmentally benign power source whose attractive characteristics will continue to further photovoltaic research. Solar cells: Operating principles. [4] American Journal of Physics -. garden lights. Similar to paint. As efficiency increases. Meissner. Roger A.3 the PV system.