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* Free Inventors Newsletter!Sign Up * Discuss in my Forum Definition of a Solar Cell - History of Solar Cells

A solar cell is any device that directly converts the energy in light into electrical energy through the process of photovoltaics. The development of solar cell technology begins with the 1839 research of French physicist Antoine-César Becquerel. Becquerel observed the photovoltaic effect while experimenting with a solid electrode in an electrolyte solution when he saw a voltage develope when light fell upon the electrode.

 

Charles Fritts - First Solar Cell

According to Encyclopedia Britannica the first genuine solar cell was built around 1883 by Charles Fritts, who used junctions formed by coating selenium (a semiconductor) with an extremely thin layer of gold.

Russell Ohl - Silicon Solar Cell

Early solar cells, however, had energy conversion efficiencies of under one percent. In 1941, the silicon solar cell was invented by Russell Ohl.

Gerald Pearson, Calvin Fuller and Daryl Chapin - Efficient Solar Cells

In 1954, three American researchers, Gerald Pearson, Calvin Fuller and Daryl Chapin, designed a silicon solar cell capable of a six percent energy conversion efficiency with direct sunlight.

The three inventors created an array of several strips of silicon (each about the size of a razorblade), placed them in sunlight, captured the free electrons and turned them into electrical current. They created the first solar panels. Bell Laboratories in New York announced the prototype manufacture of a new solar battery. Bell had funded the research. The first public service trial of the Bell Solar Battery began with a telephone carrier system (Americus, Georgia) on October 4 1955.

Sun Energy - Photovoltics and Photovoltaic Systems

By Mary Bellis

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