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This animated 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.

Please note that this resource requires Flash.
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
Intended Users Formats Ratings
- Learners
- Educators
- text/html
- image/gif
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Free access
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Keywords:
animations, clean energy, electric field, green energy, photovoltaics, renewable energy, renewable resource, solar cell, solar panel, solar radiation
Record Cloner:
Metadata instance created August 21, 2012 by Caroline Hall
Record Updated:
January 6, 2018 by Caroline Hall
Other Collections:

### 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.
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AIP Format
(WGBH Educational Foundation, Boston, 2016), WWW Document, (https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/tech/how-solar-cell-works.html).
AJP/PRST-PER
NOVA: How Do Solar Panels Work? (WGBH Educational Foundation, Boston, 2016), <https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/tech/how-solar-cell-works.html>.
APA Format
NOVA: How Do Solar Panels Work?. (2016). Retrieved May 26, 2024, from WGBH Educational Foundation: https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/tech/how-solar-cell-works.html
Chicago Format
WGBH Educational Foundation. NOVA: How Do Solar Panels Work?. Boston: WGBH Educational Foundation, 2016. https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/tech/how-solar-cell-works.html (accessed 26 May 2024).
MLA Format
NOVA: How Do Solar Panels Work?. Boston: WGBH Educational Foundation, 2016. 26 May 2024 <https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/tech/how-solar-cell-works.html>.
BibTeX Export Format
@misc{ Title = {NOVA: How Do Solar Panels Work?}, Publisher = {WGBH Educational Foundation}, Volume = {2024}, Number = {26 May 2024}, Year = {2016} }
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%T NOVA: How Do Solar Panels Work? %D 2016 %I WGBH Educational Foundation %C Boston %U https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/tech/how-solar-cell-works.html %O text/html

EndNote Export Format

%0 Electronic Source %D 2016 %T NOVA: How Do Solar Panels Work? %I WGBH Educational Foundation %V 2024 %N 26 May 2024 %9 text/html %U https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/tech/how-solar-cell-works.html

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

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### NOVA: How Do Solar Panels Work?:

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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