We’ve all heard of solar energy, but do you know how it actually works? If you’re reading this you probably don’t or at least not entirely. Don’t worry, you’ve arrived at the right place.
Solar energy is a topic of great interest for those seeking a clean alternative to power their homes. Producing your own energy seems like the pinnacle of a science fiction novel or something straight out of the Jetsons.
Before explaining what solar energy is, we must talk about solar panels and how they convert that energy.So let’s start with what most people are familiar about when looking at solar panels: The panels themselves.
What is a panel?
The panels are the translucent blue or black display most people are familiar with. These panels contain small units in them, called solar cells or photovoltaic cells. These cells are manufactured from silicon, which also serves as an efficient semiconductor.
The silicon is the one that absorbs the photons (the particle attributed to light and electromagnetic radiation). The color is due to the type of silicon or polycrystalline used, alongside the anti-reflective coating that allows a heightened absorbing capacity.
Converting Light into Electricity
The photovoltaic cells, which just mean converting the sun’s light into electricity, link up together comprising the solar panel. Now, the process can sound a little complicated for those who aren’t well versed in physics but basically put, solar panels divert the electrons from the atoms allowing electricity to flow. Let’s look into it in full detail.
The solar cells are made up of two semiconductors, the P-Layer, and the N-Layer. The positive layers or P-Layers have extra holes that allow positive charges to flow. This layer adds atoms and is usually created using an element called boron. Due to baron’s lack of one electron needed to form a bond with the silicon atoms, the vacancy hole is made.
The N-Layer silicon is made by including atoms that can have a single electron more in its exterior level than the silicon. This is called Phosphorus. Phosphorus is a chemical element that contains 5 electrons in its exterior energy level instead of 4. This allows it to bond with the silicon minus one electron. Because of this process, the silicon is free to move in the silicon structure.
Through a slew of various operations each of the positive holes and excessive amounts of electrons from each semiconductor, it creates an area around the junction known as the depletion zone. In simple terms, the depletion zone is where the electrons fill the holes.
Now that the P-Layer contains negatively charged ions and the N-Layer contain positive ions, this causes an internal electric field that does not allow the electrons in the N-Layer to fill any holes in the P-Layer.
So now that we have a flow, the wires connecting the two layers are a pathway for the electrons to move freely towards the circuit to recombine with the holes. And this, ladies and gentlemen is now an electrical current which can now be diverted to power anything. The electricity can now be sent to a circuit.
This can seem a little complex to most people, don’t worry, it is. That is the science behind the morphing of something so casual as sunlight, into useable, clean energy to power buildings and electronics.
Benefits of Solar Energy
Solar energy technology has existed since the 19th century and has only been improving over the years. Solar cells meet their current aesthetics by assembling them into panels, hence their name. This form of energy is clean and safe for the environment. It produces no noise, it’s efficient, modern, and easy to use.
The most efficient way to place them in commercial infrastructures or residential homes is through the roof. Light can be absorbed and converted in real-time or, it can be stored to be used later and even redistributed elsewhere.