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Solar cells

Morten Vesterager Madsen

The most direct use of solar energy is the conversion of photons to electricity by the photovoltaic effect. The photovoltaic effect as a phenomenon has been documented by many early experiments with the experiment of Alexandre-Edmond Becquerel in 1839 being the most well known.Becquerel, A. E. Mémoire sur les effets électriques produits sous l’influence des rayons solaires. Comptes Rendus 1839, 9, 561-567. However, it was not until the early 1950s that the photovoltaics developed into the solar cells of today. The first solar cell was made by Daryl Chapin, Calvin Fuller, and Gerald Pearson at Bell laboratories in 1954 utilizing a silicon p-n junction to achieve 6 % conversion efficiency.DOI:10.1063/1.1721711 With the space age, a market for solar cells emerged and the first American satellite Vanguard I launched in 1958 equipped with six solar cells mounted on the body. The use of solar cells on the satellite proved successful and the power-to-weight ratio of solar cells ensured their further success for space applications. For the initial history of solar cells their prices were dictated by the semiconductor industry, the price of silicon boules being the main cost factor. By 1971 the estimated price had reached $100 per watt. Since then progress have be massive. Solar cells are now part of a global industry with a multifaceted array of technologies competing. According to a study by EWEA photovoltaics accounted for the largest share of new installations within the energy sector in Europe. In 2011 21,000 MW worth of capacity was installed, accounting for 46.7% of the total installed capacity.EWEA Wind in Power - 2011 European Statistics

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