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Published on October 12th, 2007 | by Stephanie Evans


Photovoltaic Panels

A photovoltaic panel or module is simply another name for a solar panel (where photo refers to light, and voltaic refers to electricity).  The calculators that runs on solar power have small cells that are actually called photovoltaic modules.  Photovoltaic panels/modules are a group of solar cells that are electrically connected and bound together within a frame.  When photovoltaic modules are bound together, we then refer to them as photovotaic arrays.

Photovoltaic panels are made from semi-conductors (usually silicon) but because silicon in its pure form is not a good conductor, it is bonded or "doped" with either phosphorous or boron.  The phosphorous-doped silicon is called "N type" (Negative charged), and the boron-doped silicon is "P type" (Positive charged).  The two types of semi-conductors are placed in the photovoltaic panels aligned with the positively charged silicon on one side and the negatively charged silicon on the other.  (This is similar to a battery with its positive and negative poles).

Here’s how it works:

  • Between the two types of semi-conductors an electric field forms.
  • This electric field regulates the directional flow of electrons that are either freed when photons (solar energy) hit the photovoltaic panels and are absorbed by the semi-conductors, or when N type molecules move within the electric field’s range.
  • On the top and bottom of every solar cell are metal connectors that siphon off the electrons (current) and transfer the energy to where it can be used within your home, office, RV, or calculator.

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