Invention Of The Solar Cell: Bell Labs Makes A Huge Discovery
The real beginning of the modern solar panel started with Gerald Pearson, a physicist at Bell Laboratories. In the spring of 1953, he was experimenting with silicon, one of the most abundant elements in the universe, for use in electronics when he inadvertently discovered that he could create a much more efficient solar cell using silicon instead of the selenium traditionally used in harvesting solar energy.
Two of his colleagues, seeing the importance of this discovery, quickly created the first solar cell efficient enough to power small electronics. With this, the modern solar panel was born.
However, the solar cells low efficiency and extremely high cost made this new technology out of reach for large applications, and interest was only from toy and radio makers, who put the cells in toy boats, beach radios, and model airplanes.
Seemingly doomed to powering unnecessary trinkets, one creative application was about to come along that would propel the solar panel in front of the entire world.
Selenium Used To Create Electric Current
English Professor William Grylls Adams and his student Richard Evans Day bear witness to the photovoltaic effect in action after exposing selenium to light and producing an electric current.
But theres a catch, their selenium solar cells couldnt generate enough from the sunlight it captured. Nevertheless, it was a big step forward they had managed to generate electricity without moving parts.
Who Invented Solar Panels
Charles Fritts was the first person to generate electricity using solar panelsin 1884but it would be another 70 years before they became efficient enough to be useful. The first modern solar panels, with a still-meager 4% efficiency, were developed by three researchers at Bell Laboratories, Daryl Chapin, Gerald Pearson, and Calvin Fuller. Those three pioneers stood on the sometimes-overlooked shoulders of their Bell Labs predecessor Russel Ohl, who discovered how silicon crystals acted as semiconductors when exposed to light.
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Who Invented Solar Cells
In his experiments, Edmond Becquerel demonstrated the photovoltaic effect by having two plates of platinum and gold immersed in an acid, neutral, or alkaline solution and exposing them to solar radiation. This was the very first electrochemical cell. It wasnt very efficient at all, and was limited to laboratory applications.
In 1873, Willoughby Smith observed that Selenium was a very efficient material for the photovoltaic effect.
Later in 1881, Charles Fritts created the first solar cell that didnt need to be bathed in a solution. The first solid state photovoltaic cell was selenium coated in a thin layer of gold. The device was only around 1% efficient but at the time, this was a huge discovery. The very first solar array was installed on a New York City rooftop using Fritts selenium cells.
Charles Fritts The Unknown Inventor Of Solar Panels
Solar energy is the second fastest growing renewable energy in the world, according to the International Energy Agency. An industry that is key to providing electricity to 840 million people today. But this dream of guaranteeing universal access to electricity would not have been possible without Charles Fritts, author of the first solid solar cell, the forerunner of today’s solar panels.
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Charles Fritts’ ingenious innovation was the first device to generate electricity by harnessing the power of the Sun, which produces the equivalent of four billion 100-watt light bulbs every second. This energy potential of the Sun had not gone unnoticed throughout history, as the first written records on the use of solar energy date back to the Romans and Greeks, two civilizations that already used it to light fires using mirrors or “burning” lenses. However, the definitive door to the development of solar energy was opened much later by French physicist Alexandre Edmond Becquerel, who discovered the photovoltaic effect in 1838.
Fritts’ true solar cell projection didn’t come until 70 years later, when Bell Labs got the marketable and functional photovoltaic cell. Credit: Bell.
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Edmond Becquerel: The Man Behind Solar Panels
Solar panels are reasonably priced in the Philippines and all over world, mostly because more and more people are turning to the usage of solar energy. We have to thank a certain man for that without him, people will not understand the principles of solar energy.
Edmond Becquerel is a French physicist who focused his studies on the solar spectrum, magnetism, electricity and optics. In 1839, he discovered the , the operating principle of the solar cell. Solar power technology is not a recent development. In fact, use of solar power technology dates back to the mid-1800s during the Industrial Revolution, when solar energy plants were created in order to heat water thus producing steam and powering machinery.
Who First Invented Solar System
It all began with Edmond Becquerel, a young physicist working in France, who in 1839 observed and discovered the photovoltaic effect a process that produces a voltage or electric current when exposed to light or radiant energy.
How old is the solar cell? Although solar energy as we know it is no more than 60 years old, the discoveries that led to the solar cell began almost 200 years ago. These discoveries about the properties and conductivity of light have made solar energy what it is today.
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Development Of Solar Panels Over Time
Even if we consider a timeline from Bell Labs working cell to the current day, solar panels have come a long way. Everything from the size per unit capacity to the color of solar panels has undergone a change. Efficiencies have multiplied by 10 to 15 times and cost has dropped by a tenth or more. Every few years, researchers discover newer materials that are cheaper or more efficient. In the past years, Gallium Arsenide, Cadmium Telluride, Perovskite, Copper Indium Gallium Selenide, etc. materials have come up as interesting and promising alternatives to conventional solar cells. Even the way solar panels are made today has improved hugely, with automatic machines with remarkable productivity.
On the application side, we have started on the path of portable solar products, building integrated PV, and solar panel roads. Some people also believe in space-based solar that can transmit energy wirelessly without being affected by day-night cycles and temperature factors. Floating solar plants promise higher efficiencies thanks to better cooling and saving land area while reducing water bodies evaporation. Smaller applications like home solar products and solar lights have broken the image of solar being costly and a large-scale affair.
All the graphs of dropping costs or growing adoption are exponential in nature. In one line, the story of solar has been exciting, and it will be a growing industry with new developments to look out for.
Who Is The Father Of Solar Energy
How Einsteins theory of the photoelectric effect changed the world. Solar energy is considered the energy source of the future.
Who is leading solar energy?
At the beginning of 2020, the leading country for solar energy was China with 208 GW, which accounts for a third of the global installed solar energy capacity. As of 2020, there are at least 37 countries around the world with a cumulative PV capacity of more than one gigawatt.
Who is the mother of solar energy?
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Who Invented Solar Panels No It Wasnt Elon Musk
The solar panel is an incredible invention that underpins an expected $ 223.3 billion market value by 2026. As we start to learn more about solar power, its important to understand where the technology comes from.
Were going to look at the long history of solar energy, giving you some insight into its origins. The ideas below should give you some perspective on how we got to the point where harnessing the suns energy could be a viable alternative to the fossil fuel industry.
First things first, who invented solar panels? Lets take a look.
Who Invented Solar Panels?
People have been trying to harness the suns energy for thousands of years. In many cases, these people have been effective in their own ways. For example, there are accounts of Archimedes using a massive solar reflector to burn attacking ships from the shore.
It wasnt until the 19th and 20th centuries that our understanding of electricity was good enough to produce something close to a solar panel, though. The first step of creating the solar panel is creating something called a photovoltaic cell.
This is a cell that absorbs photons from the sun and transfers them into an electrical circuit. This process sounds complicated , but the transfer actually occurs as a result of the light interacting with material rather than any fancy chemistry work in a lab.
1884 and Beyond
Want to Learn More About The History of Solar Panels?
Who Introduced Solar Energy
In 1939, Russell Ohl created the solar cell design used in many modern solar panels. He patented his design in 1941. In 1954, this design was first used by Bell Labs to create the first commercially viable silicon solar cell.
Who discovered solar energy?
In 1839, the ability of some materials to create an electric charge from light exposure was first observed by Alexandre-Edmond Becquerel. Although these first solar panels were too inefficient for even simple electrical devices, they were used as an instrument to measure light.
Who is the father of solar energy?
How Einsteins theory of the photoelectric effect changed the world. Solar energy is considered the energy source of the future.
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Solar Energy In Early Times
Humans have been utilizing the suns energy as far back as we can trace. In the third century B.C., the Romans and Greeks used burning mirrors to light torches during religious ceremonies.
In 212 B.C., Greek scientist Archimedes allegedly used the reflective properties of sunlight and bronze shields to set fire to wooden Roman Empire ships that were besieging Syracuse, according to a solar timeline by the U.S. Department of Energy.
In 1816, Robert Stirling, a minister in Scotland, applied for a patent for an innovative economizer. The DOE says Stirling built heat engines in his spare time, which would later be used in solar thermal electric technology to produce energy.
Then of course there were the ancient Greeks, who used the sunlight streaming into their homes to keep warm in the winter.
All these early solar endeavors would eventually be sharpened. While it wouldnt be until years later, the basic idea of solar energy has always existed.
Solar Panels First Installed On A Rooftop
Solar panels were first installed on roofs in 1884. For reference, this was a dozen years before the launch of the modern Olympics, and 17 years before the Federation of Australia.
A photo of the first rooftop solar panels installed on a New York building in 1894.
It was the ingenious idea of American inventor Charles Fritts to put solar panels on a rooftop, however, there was a problem. In fact, this problem was so consequential that it would prove to be a major obstacle for scientists for over a century. Fritts panels, while technologically commendable for the time, were terribly inefficient, which didnt make them an economically viable source of energy generation.
How inefficient, exactly? Well, Fritts panels had an electrical efficiency of 1%, which was mostly the result of the properties inherent to selenium. However, it took until 2006, 100 years after Fritts death, before silicon cells were able to be manufactured at near 40% efficiencyand even then, the industrial average was a paltry 17%. In 2019, the world record for solar cell efficiency had climbed to 39.2%, which was achieved by using multi-junction concentrator solar cells, developed at National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado, USA.
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Solar Power Before Solar Panels
As the suns been around much longer than solar panel technology, it stands to reason that humans historically found a way to use the suns heat.
From the 7th century BC to the 1200s BCE, societies across the world used the suns energy by designing buildings with large windows or openings that allowed the suns warmth to permeate the buildings. In addition, Greeks, Romans, and Chinese used mirrors and lenses to start fires and light torches.
After that, individual scientists and researchers in the late 1700s and 1800s made small steps in more efficiently using the suns energy from solar ovens used in expeditions to Africa to solar-powered steam boats.
The big break though came in 1876, when William Grylls Adams along with his student Richard Evans Day, discovered that selenium (an element discovered in 1817 would create an electrical current when exposed to light. Just 7 years later, Charles Fritts, an American inventor, created the first solar cell by layering selenium onto a gold backing.
At less than 1% efficiency, this cell was grossly inefficient, but a huge step on the path to solar panels. And although selenium wasnt powerful enough to produce any usable amount of energy, it proved that a substance with no moving parts could create electricity from the sun.
Where Did Modern Solar Power Get Started
The roots of modern solar power can be traced back to 1839.
It was at this time that a 19 year old French physicist, A.E. Becquerel, whose focus up to that point had been related to phosphorescence and luminescence, discovered the photovoltaic effect. He found that when gold or platinum plates were submerged in a solution, then exposed to uneven solar radiation, an electrical current was generated. This discovery was seized upon by scientists across the globe.
In the early 1860’s, a French mathematician named August Mouchet began registering patents for solar powered engines. In 1878, Mouchet and his assistant Abel Pifre who would go on to develop the first solar powered printing press exhibited their solar powered engine at the Universal Exhibition in Paris, winning a gold medal for their efforts. Unfortunately, Mouchet’s work was ahead of its time. The French government determined that solar power was not economically viable, and they terminated his funding. Fortunately, solar technology trudged on.
Price And Efficiency Of Solar Panels
As we mentioned, the price and efficiency of solar panels changed dramatically over the years. At the moment when it all started, so in the time when Becquerel experimented with metal cells, solar panels were maybe 1 percent efficient. And the cost of electricity was around $300 per watt. At that moment, the price of electricity based on coal, for instance, was $3 per watt.
When the Bell Lab scientist discovered silicon solar cells, the solar panel efficiency climbed to 4 percent at first and then went to 11 percent in a short period of time. That was enough for some electronic devices to be charged with power generated from the sun, which was a huge step.
Given that the efficiency level of solar cells grew over time, its no surprise solar panels ended up being a part of the space program. That drastically increased their production and reduced the price of solar energy to $100 per watt. Later on, during the 1970s, one research established how to produce less expensive solar cells, and that lead to power generated from the sun cost only $20 per watt.
At this very moment, the price of this clean and renewable energy is the lowest ever around $0.5 per watt, and the efficiency of solar panels for home usage is around 17 percent. You may not find that to sound so great, but believe us, it is, and it made such a huge difference in so many ways.
Solar Panels In Outer Space
Some of the earliest uses of solar technology were actually in outer space where solar was used to power satellites. In 1958, the Vanguard I satellite used a tiny one-watt panel to power its radios. Later that year the Vanguard II, Explorer III and Sputnik-3 were all launched with PV technology on board. In 1964, NASA was responsible for launching the first Nimbus spacecraft, a satellite able to run entirely on a 470 watt solar array. In 1966, NASA launched the worlds first Orbiting Astronomical Observatory, powered by a one-kilowatt array.
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Manufacturing Of Pv Systems
Overall the manufacturing process of creating solar photovoltaics is simple in that it does not require the culmination of many complex or moving parts. Because of the solid-state nature of PV systems, they often have relatively long lifetimes, anywhere from 10 to 30 years. To increase the electrical output of a PV system, the manufacturer must simply add more photovoltaic components. Because of this, economies of scale are important for manufacturers as costs decrease with increasing output.
The Future Of Solar Energy
While solar energy has developed immensely, theres still a need for future innovation. Modern solar cells average about 15 to 18% efficiency, sothe future of solarmay hold a new design in solar cells that can increase efficiency while also increasing the affordability of solar cells. This new technology would potentially increase the use of solar energy and technology, reduce dependence on other energy sources, and reduce electricitys impact on the environment. Solar technology, especially after more advances, will continue to spread throughout the world and provide energy to homes and businesses in an affordable and environmentally-conscious manner.
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History And Creation Of Solar Panels How Did It All Begin
Its indisputable that the invention of solar cells changed the course of history. With solar technology, we were given an alternative to fossil fuels and a chance to make up with our planet, to redeem ourselves for all the bad we did in the past.
If you would like to know more about this fascinating story of progress and innovation, stay with us and get to know the real solar panels history.