Solar cells, also referred to as photovoltaic (PV) cells, are utilized to transform sunlight into electricity. Created from semiconductor materials such as silicon, they absorb photons of light and release electrons, producing an electrical current.
Monocrystalline Solar Cells
Constructed from a single, pure crystal of silicon, monocrystalline solar cells are cut from a cylindrical ingot and have a uniform dark appearance. These cells boast high efficiency, ranging from 14% to 20%, but are also among the priciest type. Due to their high efficiency, they’re often utilized in small-scale applications where space is limited.
Polycrystalline Solar Cells
Polycrystalline solar cells, otherwise known as multi-crystalline cells, are formed from multiple silicon crystals melted together and then cut into square wafers. Though less efficient compared to monocrystalline cells, with a range of 11% to 16%, they’re also less expensive. They’re frequently used in larger solar panel installations, such as on residential rooftops.
Thin-Film Solar Cells
A very thin layer of photovoltaic material, such as amorphous silicon, is deposited onto a substrate, like glass or metal, to form thin-film solar cells. The least expensive type of solar cell, they also have the lowest efficiency, usually between 6% to 8%. They’re often used in large-scale solar farms or building-integrated photovoltaic systems for their low profile and flexibility.
CIGS Solar Cells
CIGS, or Copper Indium Gallium Selenide, solar cells are a type of thin-film cell made from copper, indium, gallium, and selenium. With an efficiency of around 12% to 15%, they’re higher compared to other thin-film cells and often used in portable or flexible solar products.
Perovskite Solar Cells
Perovskite solar cells are a newer type made from a perovskite material composed of lead, iodine, and tin. They hold a high potential for efficiency, with some researchers reaching over 25% efficiency. Although still in early stages of development, there are concerns regarding their stability and toxicity.
Comparing the Different Types of Solar Cells
The various types of solar cells each have their own advantages and disadvantages. Monocrystalline cells offer the highest efficiency, but also come at a higher cost. Thin-film cells are the most budget-friendly, but also have the lowest efficiency. Polycrystalline cells balance efficiency and cost, while CIGS and perovskite cells present promising alternatives with high potential efficiency.
Final Thoughts on Solar Cells
Regardless of the type, solar cells play a crucial role in advancing the use of renewable energy and reducing reliance on fossil fuels.