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Who Invented Solar Cell: The History of Solar Power​

The history of solar cells begins with the idea that sunlight could be used to generate electricity.
solar cell history

Solar Cells Through History

In 1839, French physicist Alexandre Edmond Becquerel discovered the photovoltaic effect, which describes how certain materials can convert light into electrical current.

He observed that certain materials would generate an electric current when exposed to light and came to some conclusions.

Alexandre Edmond Becquerel - Photovoltaic Effect

He observed that voltage was generated when light hit a metal plate.

This was the first time that anyone had observed the conversion of light into electrical energy. This discovery paved the way for other scientists to develop the first solar cells.

Heinrich Hertz - Selenium

By 1887, German physicist Heinrich Hertz had observed and later proven that sunlight could be used to generate electricity.

This was done through the use of a solar cell, which is a device that converts sunlight into electrical energy. The solar cell that Hertz had created was made of selenium and was able to produce a current of 1.5 volts.

In 1876, Willoughby Smith discovered that selenium could be used to create an electrical current when exposed to light.

Heinrich Rudolf Heinz

Charles Fritts - a Thin Layer of Gold

All these discoveries led scientists to begin developing solar cells made of selenium and other materials.

In 1883, Charles Fritts created the first solar cell by coating selenium with an extremely thin layer of gold. Fritts was able to achieve a conversion efficiency of just 1%. However, his invention laid the groundwork for future solar cell development.

In 1891, American inventor Clarence Kemp patented a solar water heater, called Climax. He used selenium to absorb and store heat from the sun. His design was later improved upon by other inventors. This means that although Fritts’ cell was only 1% efficient (converting less than 1% of the sunlight that hit them into electricity), it was a significant milestone in the history of solar energy that led to further development.

Daryl Chapin, Calvin Fuller and Gerald Pearson - Silicon Solar Cell

It wasn’t until the early 20th century that solar cells began to really be used for practical purposes.

Solar cells were also used in radios and other electronic devices during World War II. After the war, scientists continued to develop more efficient solar cells.

In 1954, American chemist Daryl Chapin, physicist Calvin Fuller and engineer Gerald Pearson created the first silicon solar cell.

The three men were working for the Bell Laboratories at the time. They were able to create a silicon solar cell by using a single wafer of silicon that had been doped with phosphorus.

The cell they created was able to convert sunlight into electricity with unseen efficiency. 

The solar cell that was created by Bell Laboratories was made of silicon and had a conversion efficiency of 6.4% making it the most efficient solar cell at that time. 

This was a major improvement over the previous record of 4.5% conversion efficiency that had been set by another team at Bell Laboratories.

The new solar cell was also able to operate at a higher temperature than the previous record holder, making it more practical for use in a variety of applications.

Daryl Chapin, Calvin Fuller and Gerald Pearson are fully credited with the invention of the silicon solar cell in 1954.

While this might seem like a low number, it was actually a major breakthrough at the time. Prior to this, solar cells were made from selenium and only had an efficiency of around 1 percent. The silicon solar cell created by Chapin, Fuller and Pearson was a major step forward in the development of solar energy technology.

Silicon Solar Cells Nowadays

The invention of the silicon solar cell was a significant milestone in the history of solar energy.

The high efficiency of the silicon solar cell made it possible for solar power to be used for a variety of applications, including powering homes and businesses.

The silicon solar cell also paved the way for the development of more efficient solar cells, which led to the widespread use of solar power around the world.

Solar cells have come a long way since their early days. Today, they are used in a variety of applications, from powering small electronic devices like calculators, watches, rc cars and boats, and more, to providing electricity for entire homes and villages. 

Solar cells are also being used to power spacecraft and satellites. 

With continued research and development, it is likely that solar cells will play an even more important role in our lives in the future. 

They are also used in large scale solar power plants to generate electricity. Even today, the silicon solar cells are very efficient and can convert up to 25% of the sunlight that hits them into electricity. Solar cells are an important part of the renewable energy mix and are expected to play a major role in the future of energy.

Future Is Solar

The history of solar cells is a history of increasing efficiency and decreasing cost.

The first commercial silicon solar cell had an efficiency of about 1%. Today, the most efficient silicon solar cells have an efficiency of about 25%. 

Thin-film solar cells are even more efficient, with the most efficient thin-film solar cell having an efficiency of about 40%. The cost of solar cells has also decreased significantly. In 1977, the cost of a silicon solar cell was about $100 per watt. Today, the cost of a silicon solar cell is about $0.50 per watt, and the cost of a thin-film solar cell is about $0.30 per watt.

The future of solar cells is very exciting. Researchers are working on developing new types of solar cells with higher efficiencies. They are also working on making solar cells cheaper to manufacture so that they can be used more widely. 

Solar cells are an important part of the future of energy, and the history of solar cells is a history of progress.