The strength of a solar grid is determined by the efficiency and quantity of its solar cells. The more cells attached the higher the solar intake! As far as efficiency, different solar technologies utilize different types of semiconductors. We are going to focus on the top few in this two or three part study. Silicon cells, thin-film photovoltaics, and perovskite photovoltaics are what we will be analyzing and today we will pick apart Silicon and crystalline silicon cells.
Silicon cells were the first solar cells invented by Bell Labs and in 1954 the first practical solar cell was created. The development of solar technology has a long history spanning back as early as the second century BC. This was when the first use of the sun was recorded, burning ants by magnifying glass. Since then, the development of solar cell technology took off in 1883 leading to the invention of the silicon cell in 1954. As they have been around the longest, it isn't surprising that silicon cells make up about 95% of all solar cells purchased as of 2015. Silicon is also the second most abundant resource on earth behind oxygen and so make for an incredible and cheap semi conductor. With silicon cells they can be made in a couple of ways, first you have your traditional silicon cell and then also a crystalline silicon cell. The former is the cheapest option however, the latter has increased efficiency.
Crystalline silicon is identified by its crystal lattice structure. The silicon atoms are organized in a manner which promotes the most efficient conversion of light to energy. While being cost effective and producing high levels of energy, these cells also have life spans of more than 20 years. It is not hard to see why the majority of solar cells purchased are silicon. Low cost, efficient, and abundantly available makes for a great business model. While silicon cells are incredible, there are other semiconductors with different perks. Next week we will take a look at what those might be. Until then…
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