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The Photovoltaic Effect

The Photovoltaic Effect

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The Photovoltaic Effect
 

The Photovoltaic effect is the creation of voltage or an electric current in a material upon exposure to light and is a known and understood to be a physical and chemical phenomenon.

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*Photovoltaic Effect illustrated through a solar panel

How the Photovoltaic Effect Works

Photovoltaic effect is a process in which two dissimilar materials in close contact produce an electrical voltage when struck by light or other radiant energy. Light striking crystals such as silicon or germanium, in which electrons are usually not free to move from atom to atom within the crystal, provides the energy needed to free some electrons from their bound condition.

Free electrons cross the junction between two dissimilar crystals more easily in one direction than in the other, giving one side of the junction a negative charge and, therefore, a negative voltage with respect to the other side, just as one electrode of a battery has a negative voltage with respect to the other.

The photovoltaic effect can continue to provide voltage and current as long as light continues to stay on the two materials. This current can be used to measure the brightness of the incident light or as a source of power in an electrical circuit, as such, in a solar power system.

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