Photovoltaic (PV) solar cells are devices that convert light into electricity at the atomic level. They are designed using materials that behave in a particular way when exposed to light. Firstly, sunlight causes electrons in the material to be released from their bindings with the atomic structure. Clever cell design then causes them to flow in just one direction across the cell, where they build up and become available for electrical work. If enough cells are connected together in a panel, a useful amount of electricity is produced.
Most of today’s commercially available solar cells are made from high purity silicon, which makes the cells expensive. CSIRO is developing new types of solar cells, including organic (plastic) and dye-sensitised solar cells that will create the next generation of PV technology – they will be lighter, more flexible, attractive and most importantly, cheaper.
For more information please visit the CSIRO Photovoltaics webpage.