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Experiment 222: Solar

James Cowell

First demonstrated by Edmond Becquerel, a French physicist.
He studied the solar spectrum,magnetism,electricityandoptics.
He discovered the photovoltaic effect, the operating principle behind
a solar cell.
The Becquerel prize is named after him, and awarded to people who
have excelled in the field of solar energy.

Edmond Becquerel

Becquerel Prize awarded to Dr Andreas

Bett for solar PV concentrator

The Photovoltaic Effect

When a material is exposed to light and a voltage or electric current is produced, this is
the photovoltaic effect.
Photons incidence on a surface causes electrons in the valence band to absorb energy
and jump to the conduction band, becoming free.
These non-thermal electron diffuse, and reach a junction where they are accelerated
into a different material by a built in potential, and this generates an electromotive
Hence, some light energy has been converted into electrical energy.
The photovoltaic effect differs to the photoelectric effect as the electron passes directly
into a different material rather than having to pass through a vacuum, which causes
the photoelectric effect to have a much higher energy threshold.

The two materials

P and N type silicon.
N (negative) type silicon has spare electrons, and P
(positive) type silicon has an electron deficit.
When photons strike the n type silicon, the electrons
pass to the p type silicon, which is what produces the

Uses of Solar Cells

Powering your homes:
With solar cells on roofs, and huge solar arrays more and more
electricity is coming from the sun.

Solar powered vehicles:

Whilst these are seen as a novelty in some respects, the
possible use of solar cells in vehicles is a very exciting

International Space Station:

In order to power many space crafts, solar cells are used
as they can provide energy to a ship for an indefinite amount
of time.

Global Warming!
Average temperatures could be between 3 and 9K
warmer than now by the end of the century.
This is caused by the greenhouse effect:

The UKs energy sources

Much of the UKs energy is non-renewable, and contributes to
the greenhouse effect and global warming.
There are many available technologies which can help reduce
the overall output of non-renewable sources by replacing them
with renewables, such as solar power.
If this is not prioritised then there could be a climate crisis in the

African Solar Energy the Solution?

Under a new scheme,
2.5million homes could be
powered by Tunisian
sunshine by 2018.
Up to 2 gigawatts of solar
energy could be
transported to the UK.
Across the UK, only about
6% of energy produced is
lost in transmission,
meaning that whilst more
would be lost in importing

The Experiment
Calculating efficiency of the solar cell when different
wavelengths of light is incident upon it.
All the light energy arriving at the solar cell is not
converted into electrical energy, so there is an
It is almost the same as calculating the error in the solar

The Circuit

The Method
solar cell was placed at a fixed distance, 50cm, from the

The power was calculated at this distance by measuring
getting a voltage output from a thermophile, and the
conversion was used.
Using the variable resistor resistance was change from 0-30 in
2 intervals, and then 30-80 in 5 intervals.
The voltage and currents and voltages were measured for each
value of resistance.
Different filters were placed over the solar cell and the method
was repeated.

The power generated by the solar lamp can be
calculated by
The efficiency can be calculated by
is the maximum power generated across the
Graphs of power against resistance are plotted to
calculated .

With no filters the efficiency was
Red filter:
Blue filter:
Green filter:

The initial power, was calculated with white light, so
when filters are used less photons will reach the solar
cell, decreasing and hence the efficiency.
But where does the difference in efficiencies come