​​What are Photovoltaic Cells and How Do They Work?

Posted on Aug 23rd 2023


​​What are Photovoltaic Cells and How Do They Work?

Most people know what a solar panel looks like and understand its general function — to create power for businesses, homes, cars and even small appliances. Solar is widely available, convenient, silent, and good for the environment. But do you know how it works, exactly?

If you’d like to learn more about the science behind solar panels, the experts at Custom Energy have got you covered. Here, we’ll go over the basics: what are solar panels made of, and how do they work?

What Makes Up Solar Panels?

Solar panels are made up of multiple layers. First, there’s a layer of silicon, which is then topped with tempered glass and coated in an anti-reflection layer. A frame holds it all together. Each layer is essential to a solar panel’s functionality, but this post will focus on that silicon layer, which is where energy production takes place.

A full solar panel is usually one big rectangle or square made up of smaller rectangles or squares. If you look closely, you’ll notice that the smaller rectangles or squares also contain even smaller shapes or “cells.” The entire panel is called an array, which comprises modules (the smaller rectangles or squares), and then — you guessed it — cells.

The solar cells, the smallest building blocks, are also known as photovoltaic cells. These photovoltaic, or PV, cells are the most crucial part of solar panels because they are the energy production hub. A single PV cell can power a small appliance. Solar panels are made up of dozens of PV cells to create enough power to service the energy needs of a home or business.

How it Works

Remember those layers we talked about? That silicon layer is made up of our PV cells. One side of the layer has a positive charge, and the other side has a negative charge. If you recall learning about photons and electrons in science class years ago — here’s where that information comes in handy.

Solar power, simply put, is generated by the movement of electrons from a positively charged silicon layer and a negatively charged silicon layer. Photovoltaic cells are often made of silicon because it is a good energy semiconductor.

An image of how Custom Energy uses solar energy to power your home and save you money on your bill.

When light energy, also known as photon energy, hits a PV cell in a solar panel, it knocks electrons loose. As these loose electrons dance around the PV cell, they create an electric current, which can be used as energy to power a home or business.

What You Need to Know

There is much more to learn about solar energy and how it works, but you don’t need to become an expert. That’s what Custom Energy is for! But we hope our brief overview has helped you learn a little bit about solar panels and how they work. At least, if anyone asks you what a photovoltaic cell is, you can answer them! If you have more questions about solar power or want to take advantage of this fascinating technology to improve your energy footprint and save on your electric bill, call Custom Energy today!

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