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published by the WGBH Educational Foundation
This interactive Flash tutorial shows how photovoltaic cells in solar panels convert sunlight into electrical current. It provides a close-up look at each layer of the basic solar panel, with particular emphasis on how electrons cross over the junction that joins the two silicon layers in the cell. When the concentration of negative and positive charge between the two layers reaches equilibrium, an electric field is produced -- the solar cell is ready to capture photons.  

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Subjects Levels Resource Types
Classical Mechanics
- Work and Energy
= Conservation of Energy
Education Practices
- Technology
= Multimedia
Electricity & Magnetism
- Electric Fields and Potential
= Electric Field
- Electromotive Force and Current
= Cells and Batteries
- High School
- Informal Education
- Instructional Material
= Activity
= Interactive Simulation
- Audio/Visual
= Movie/Animation
Appropriate Courses Categories Ratings
- Physics First
- Conceptual Physics
- Algebra-based Physics
- AP Physics
- Lesson Plan
- Activity
- New teachers
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Free access
© 2009 http://www.wisc-online.com/copyright.asp
active learning, animations, clean energy, conduction, green energy, radiation, solar cell, solar panel
Record Cloner:
Metadata instance created August 21, 2012 by Caroline Hall
Record Updated:
January 29, 2015 by Caroline Hall

AAAS Benchmark Alignments (2008 Version)

4. The Physical Setting

4B. The Earth
  • 9-12: 4B/H8. The earth has many natural resources of great importance to human life. Some are readily renewable, some are renewable only at great cost, and some are not renewable at all.
4D. The Structure of Matter
  • 9-12: 4D/H1. Atoms are made of a positively charged nucleus surrounded by negatively charged electrons. The nucleus is a tiny fraction of the volume of an atom but makes up almost all of its mass. The nucleus is composed of protons and neutrons which have roughly the same mass but differ in that protons are positively charged while neutrons have no electric charge.
  • 9-12: 4D/H9b. Some atoms and molecules are highly effective in encouraging the interaction of others.
4E. Energy Transformations
  • 9-12: 4E/H7. Thermal energy in a system is associated with the disordered motions of its atoms or molecules. Gravitational energy is associated with the separation of mutually attracting masses. Electrical potential energy is associated with the separation of mutually attracting or repelling charges.
4G. Forces of Nature
  • 6-8: 4G/M4. Electrical circuits require a complete loop through which an electrical current can pass.
  • 9-12: 4G/H4ab. In many conducting materials, such as metals, some of the electrons are not firmly held by the nuclei of the atoms that make up the material. In these materials, applied electric forces can cause the electrons to move through the material, producing an electric current. In insulating materials, such as glass, the electrons are held more firmly, making it nearly impossible to produce an electric current in those materials.

This resource is part of a Physics Front Topical Unit.

Topic: Conservation of Energy
Unit Title: Renewable Energy Sources

How does a solar panel convert sunlight into electrical current? This interactive Flash tutorial provides a close-up look at each layer of the basic solar panel to show how electrons are energized when sunlight strikes the cell.

Link to Unit:
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Record Link
AIP Format
(WGBH Educational Foundation, Boston, 2009), WWW Document, (http://www.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/ate10.sci.phys.energy.solarcell/inside-a-solar-cell/).
PBS Learning Media: Inside a Solar Cell, (WGBH Educational Foundation, Boston, 2009), <http://www.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/ate10.sci.phys.energy.solarcell/inside-a-solar-cell/>.
APA Format
PBS Learning Media: Inside a Solar Cell. (2009). Retrieved May 23, 2017, from WGBH Educational Foundation: http://www.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/ate10.sci.phys.energy.solarcell/inside-a-solar-cell/
Chicago Format
WGBH Educational Foundation. PBS Learning Media: Inside a Solar Cell. Boston: WGBH Educational Foundation, 2009. http://www.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/ate10.sci.phys.energy.solarcell/inside-a-solar-cell/ (accessed 23 May 2017).
MLA Format
PBS Learning Media: Inside a Solar Cell. Boston: WGBH Educational Foundation, 2009. 23 May 2017 <http://www.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/ate10.sci.phys.energy.solarcell/inside-a-solar-cell/>.
BibTeX Export Format
@misc{ Title = {PBS Learning Media: Inside a Solar Cell}, Publisher = {WGBH Educational Foundation}, Volume = {2017}, Number = {23 May 2017}, Year = {2009} }
Refer Export Format

%T PBS Learning Media: Inside a Solar Cell
%D 2009
%I WGBH Educational Foundation
%C Boston
%U http://www.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/ate10.sci.phys.energy.solarcell/inside-a-solar-cell/
%O application/flash

EndNote Export Format

%0 Electronic Source
%D 2009
%T PBS Learning Media: Inside a Solar Cell
%I WGBH Educational Foundation
%V 2017
%N 23 May 2017
%9 application/flash
%U http://www.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/ate10.sci.phys.energy.solarcell/inside-a-solar-cell/

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Citation Source Information

The AIP Style presented is based on information from the AIP Style Manual.

The APA Style presented is based on information from APA Style.org: Electronic References.

The Chicago Style presented is based on information from Examples of Chicago-Style Documentation.

The MLA Style presented is based on information from the MLA FAQ.

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PBS Learning Media: Inside a Solar Cell:

Is Supplemented By Dayton Regional STEM Center: Warm Home Solar Style

Flash interactive, appropriate for Grades 9-12, depicts what happens at the atomic level when electrons encounter the two silicon layers of a solar photovoltaic cell.

relation by Caroline Hall
Same topic as TryEngineering: Here Comes the Sun

High school lab: students disassemble solar calculators to gain insight into how solar energy is collected and converted to electrical energy.

relation by Caroline Hall

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