How does a solar panel work?
John, DIYer & IT developer, Brighton59 guides
- Photovoltaic cell
- Atoms and electrons
- DC and AC current
Composition of a solar panel
How a solar panel produces electricity: the physics of atoms
Without going into too much detail, let's try to paint you a mental picture of each composing layer of a solar panel. To start off on the right foot, remember that an atom is composed of a nucleus, around which electrons, organized into different layers, are constantly circling. The physical properties of an atom is determined by the number of electrons in the outer layer.
Photovoltaic cells: semiconductor materials
The general mode of operation for manufacturing semiconductor materials is to introduce specifically selected impurities into this structure, which is referred to as doping. If our crystal of tetravalent atoms is supplemented with one additional atom, this time carrying three valent electrons, we wind up with an unbalanced charge, with one electron missing. Since an electron is negatively charged, the crystal will have an overall positive charge. This technique is referred to as P doping. On the other hand, if an atom with 5 valent electron is inserted, the crystal will be negatively charged, due to the excess of electrons. This approach, as you have probably guessed, is referred to as N doping.
If you align a plate of N-doped material next to a plate of P-doped material, this results in what is referred to as a PN junction. Where they meet, negative charges on one side and positive charges on the other create an electric field.
How does a photovoltaic cell work?
Transformation of AC direct current: the role of the inverter
Installing solar panels is a big project that requires a lot of knowledge. To make sure you have everything you need, follow the links below for related accessories, advice from our editors and more helpful guides:
- How to choose your solar panels?
- How to calculate the power and size of your solar panels?
- What type of solar panel is best for a motorhome, truck or boat?
- Solar panels: efficiency and photovoltaic cells
- How to install your solar panels?
And to make sure you have all the right tools:
- How to choose your electric wires and cables?
- How to choose your drill?
- How to choose your drill accessories?
- How to choose your circular saw?
- How to choose your circular saw blade?
- How to choose your screwdriver set?
- How to choose your electric screwdriver?
- How to choose screwdriver bits?
- How to choose your screws?
- How to choose your extension cord?
- How to choose your measuring tools?
- How to choose your tape measure?
- How to choose your ladder, stepladder or scaffolding?
John, DIYer & IT developer, Brighton 59 guides écrits
Since I was a child, I was always interested in manual and technical works. Always fascinated by woodworking, I took advantage of my first flat as a playground. On the cards: electricity (of course, safety first!) and some partition walls; but also decorating with the help of the missus, made-to-measure furniture and little tricks to optimise the space, all the while remaining as original as possible. When the little one arrived, I started building bits and pieces for him!
Lacking space, I have not got a permanent workshop and certain tools I dream about but are not part of my collection. Not to worry, I already know a lot about DIY and I have a high-tech profile that I hope will guide you in your decisions!
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