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The history of solar cells has come a long way since its inception in 1883, in this article we will make a synthesis of the historical facts of technological advances up to our time.
The most important source of energy for the Earth is the nuclear fusion that takes place in our sun. There the hydrogen atoms melt in helium. The process of nuclear fusion in the sun will continue for billions of years.


The Greek philosopher Aristotle has already found the deliberate use of solar heat. This explains how houses could be built in such a way that solar heat is optimally used.

 The Romans had heliocamini: a window with enclosed spaces that acted as a kind of solar oven.

Around 1700, the French natural scientist Antoine Lavois built a solar oven equipped with solar collectors to melt the platinum.

In what year were the first solar cells invented?

Charles Fritts developed the first solar cells in 1883. He did this by covering layers of selenium with a thin layer of gold. The cell then had a return of just 1 percent.

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In 1941, the first then modern silicon cell was developed by Russel Ohl. And in 1954 the first crystalline silicon panels were produced, which reached an efficiency of 4 percent.

These cells were especially interesting for space travel, because the efficiency was too low for terrestrial applications. In the years after 1954, solar cells were constantly improved, which increased efficiency to 6 percent.

What is the efficiency of a solar cell?

Today, the average commercial solar cell achieves a yield of about 14 percent.

Solar cells can be found everywhere. For example, some water pumps that farmers use to obtain their electricity from solar cells. 

There are buoys in the sea that use the electricity generated by the solar cells for sound and lighting signals.
Solar cells do not work in the same way as solar collectors.

A solar cell heats water to generate steam, and that steam drives a turbine that in turn causes a generator to produce electricity. A solar cell does not take that detour because it generates electricity directly from sunlight.

Electricity is generated when the light rays end up in the solar cell. It needs a lot of solar cells to form a solar panel. This is because a solar cell generates very little electricity.



Solar cells

The scientific name of a solar cell is a photovoltaic cell. These cells can be found in a solar panel.

A solar panel is actually a collective name for several solar cells. These cells are trapped in a photovoltaic system. Silicon is the raw material of a solar cell. On the one hand, a thin plate of phosphorus and boron is placed. When sunlight enters these plates, the electrons fall off.

A characteristic of these cells is that they are semiconductor. This means that the electrons released can only select one side. A solar cell has ½ volt as voltage, this is very low. The solution for this is the investor. This is a device that guarantees that there is enough energy to be able to comply with a direct or alternating current.

Thin film solar cells

A second type of solar cell is up to 200 times thinner than normal solar cells. These cells are also very flexible. The dough is also on the low side, so you can easily mount them on any surface.

The main disadvantage of these thin solar cells is that the efficiency is lower. This saves 6% compared to normal solar cells. These cells are cheaper, but you should still think about the efficiency before buying a solar cell.

The development of solar panels

The efficiency with which solar cells convert light into electricity is increasing. 

For silicon-based solar cells, efficiency is well above 10% and best, even above 20%. 

Conventional silicon panels with silicon cells have an energy efficiency of around 15%, but they are relatively expensive. Relatively much cheaper are the solar cells made of a thin layer of silicone on plastic. 

Their efficiency is approximately 8%. The good thing about silicon is that it is found in large quantities on earth. There are also solar cells based on other materials such as indium, germanium, arcenicum and gallium, which achieve a conversion efficiency of approximately 30%. 

Solar cell systems have also been developed with nanomaterials, such as titanium dioxide nanoparticles. These solar cells are cheaper to manufacture than standard silicon cells, but they are less efficient. The relationship between the energy needed to make solar cells and the energy produced by solar cells is improving more and more. 

Solar cell systems generate eight to fifteen times more energy than their production cost. Due to the increase in the prices of fossil fuels, this form of alternative energy is increasingly popular.

Learn more about the history of solar cells

Use of solar collectors.

The first generation of  solar cells. dates from the 19th century and was able to convert 1% to 2% of solar energy into electricity.

In 1861 a solar motor patent was granted in France and in 1872 a solar collector of 4500 square meters was commissioned.

Las Salinas (Chile) distill 20 cubic meters of water per day. The world exhibition in Paris in 1878 showed a steam engine with solar energy with an energy efficiency of 40%.

People have always believed in the usability of solar energy. Solar collectors are common products for the supply of hot water. In China there is the biggest market for this. An estimated 40 million solar collector systems have been installed there. Annually, around 7 times more space of solar panels is sold in China than in Europe.

Also in the Mediterranean Very popular solar collectors. Particularly in countries like Greece and Turkey. The largest market in northern Europe is mainly in Germany. About half of all European solar collectors can be found there.

Solar collectors are also usually installed in the Netherlands, but this is still relatively smaller than in Germany. If the use of solar collectors were to be used more in new buildings in the Netherlands, this could cover approximately 10% of the current Dutch energy requirement. Professional solar collectors can convert around 50% of the solar energy they absorb into usable heat.

Different types

Many different devices are also possible, each with its own characteristics. We will list the most popular: pipe registers, solar ponds (deep and shallow).

Vacuum tubes or simply the flat plate collector. These are also used with a reflector. There is a different solar collector for each application. To heat your pond, pool, tap water, etc.


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