Photovoltaic (PV) cells, or solar cells, convert sunlight directly into electricity. PV cells are assembled into flat plate systems that can be mounted on rooftops or other sunny areas. They generate electricity with no moving parts, operate quietly with no emissions, and require little maintenance. However, the cost is currently too high for bulk power applications.
A photovoltaic cell is composed of several layers of different materials. The top layer is a glass cover or other encapsulant to protect the cell from weather conditions. This is followed by an anti-reflective layer to prevent the cell from reflecting the light away (see the figure below).
<1 kW -100 kW.
Commercially deployed, advanced PV films under development
Two semiconductor layers in the solar cell create the electron current. Materials, such as silicon, are suitable for making these semiconducting layers, and each has benefits and drawbacks for different applications.
In addition to the semiconducting materials, solar cells consist of two metallic grids or electrical contacts. One is placed above the semiconducting material and the other below. The top grid or contact collects electrons from the semiconductor and transfers them to the external load. The back contact layer is connected to complete the electrical circuit.