The Science of Solar

PV History - From Bacquerel to Bell Labs


The photovoltaic (PV) effect was discovered in 1839 by the French experimenter, Edmund Becquerel. He showed that a voltage was produced across two electrodes of his experimental electrolytic cell when exposed to light.

In 1904, Albert Einstein published his paper on the PV effect and was awarded the Noble Prize in 1921.

A 1954 "Bell Solar Battery“ was introduced by Bell Labs. It was approximately 2% efficient.

How a PV Cell Works - Converting Sunlight to Electricity

adj. Capable of producing a voltage when exposed to radiant energy, especially light

Sunlight (photons) push electrons around in something called a PN junction which is the building block of the computer industry. Once the electrons get pushed out of their resting place (holes) their only way to reunite as an electron-hole pair is to ride back through a light, motor, etc. and do useful work for us.

PV panels produce DC electricity which is then converted to AC household current using a Grid-Tied Inverter. If the house can't use all the electricity the PV system produces, then the excess is put back on the grid for others to use.