NOVA: How Do Solar Panels Work?
One of the most important applications of the photoelectric effect is its use in solar panels. It works on the basic principle of light striking a cathode, which causes the emission of electrons, which in turn produces a current. How do solar panels convert sunlight into electricity? This interactive activity from NOVA takes the learner inside a virtual photovoltaic cell to see how two different layers of silicon work to establish an electric field, push electrons to metal conductor strips, and generate electricity. See item directly below for a printable version of this resource, which could be ideal for close examination of components of a photovoltaic cell.
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NOVA: Inside a Solar Cell
This is the printable, text-based version of the interactive resource directly above. Authored by Stephanie Chasteen, it provides detailed text explanations of the anatomy and composition of a solar cell, how an electric field is created in the cell, how photovoltaic cells generate electricity by "knocking loose" electrons in the silicon layers, and how this technology can power houses. Diagrams are very clear and easy to understand.
NASA: How Do Photovoltaics Work?
This resource would be a great way to integrate "close" reading with video and animations of photovoltaic cells. It has multiple diagrams to illustrate the basic operation of a solar cell. It explores both single-junction and multijunction devices.
Solar Energy Technologies Office: Photovoltaics
This web page from the Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy (EERE), is chock-full of info on the latest solar cell technologies being funded at national labs and universities. One of the difficulties implementing solar energy solutions has been the cost. This EERE project is researching ways to improve efficiency and lower manufacturing costs of solar panels.
Trends in the Periodic Table for Threshold Frequency in Photoelectric Effect
Are there ways to predict the photoelectric properties within element families? This post can help students use the periodic table to explore factors that affect threshold frequency of an element. The author, chemistry professor Dan Berger of Bluffton College, examines whether there are trends between threshold frequencies and electronegativity. He found that there are apparent trends, as he explains in this post. Great way to make the connection between physics and chemistry.