Solar Cells: How they Work
  
  If you've ever used a small solar-powered calculator, you have a little understanding about how solar cells, also called photovoltaics, work.

  You may have played with your calculator at a young age, watching the numbers on the screen disappear as you covered with your thumb the small gray squares on the face of the calculator.

   Perhaps you even inadvertently lost some of your calculations by accidentally obscuring contact with light with your papers or books.

  In any case, this same technology is now being researched on a much larger scale, as scientists are trying to harness the sun's powers for larger uses, such as to provide electricity to homes and businesses.

  Solar cells work by gathering the sun's rays in a material that is similar to that of a computer chip. The light from the sun sets free the electrons found in this semi-conducting material, allowing a flow of electrons through the material,
which is electricity.
 
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  This process of converting light from the sun or other sources to electricity is known as the photovoltaic effect.

  Thin films of solar cells are now being developed to double as shingles, tiles, building facades, and glazes for skylights.

  These solar energy versions of the real product are most times just as strong and durable, standing up to the elements as well as, for example, asphalt roofing tiles.


 
















 Ten to twenty solar cells, measuring several feet on each side, can provide enough energy for a household, while larger versions of these solar cell systems can be linked together to form larger arrays used for businesses. Because these types of solar cells are flat, they work well in architecture.

  Recently, concentrating collectors have been researched, developed, and used as well. These lenses focus the sunlight onto the solar cells, optimizing the energy collected. The main idea in this concept is to cut costs by using less of the semi-conducting material that is used to create solar cells.

  However, because these cells require the lenses to be focused directly into the sunlight, they are currently only used in the very sunniest parts of the country. Often times they require a sun tracking system, also cutting back on the efficiency of the product.

  As further research is done on solar cells, we will continue to move from those used in school calculators to ones that truly have the ability to take the place of fossil fuel energy in our homes and businesses.

  The sunlight is free, and when the materials and processes used to collect this energy becomes more efficient and cost effective as well, solar power will become more and more popular.

 
 
  
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