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Electricity From Sunlight
The solar cells made from crystalline silicon are almost magical devices. They take sunlight shining on them and convert it into electricity. Electricity is a flow of electrons, but where do these electrons come from, and how do these thin sheets of processed silicon manage to accomplish this feat?
The electrons are part of the silicon material. Each silicon atom is connected to four neighboring silicon atoms by means of its four outermost electrons. Each bond between two silicon atoms is made of two electrons, one contributed by the first atom and the other contributed by the second atom. These electrons are locked into a bound state, and as such are not able to participate in the flow of electric current. They must first be freed. This is where light comes in. Just as rainfall is made up of a stream of individual rain drops, "lightfall" (sunshine) is made up of a stream of individual "light drops" called photons. A photon is a tiny packet of energy, too small to be sensed individually by our eyes. But each photon in the visible part of the spectrum packs enough of a punch to knock a single electron free from its bound state. As a free particle, the electron is now capable of joining with other electrons as part of a flow of electric current. Thus, the stream of photons that we know as sunlight penetrates into the silicon where each photon surrenders its energy to free a bound electron, and "dies" (is absorbed) in the process.
Freeing the electrons is only part of the job. We must also get these freed electrons out of the silicon and into an external circuit to do the work of electricity, such as spinning the impeller of a pump. Electrons do not stay free in the silicon for very long, only about 100 microseconds (0.0001 sec), before they fall back into a hole left by some other freed electron and become bound again. To get the electron out, we exploit the fact that the electron is negatively charged. Strong electric fields are built into the solar cell near its front side by a phosphorus diffusion, and near its rear side by adding boron or aluminum alloying. These electric fields propel freed electrons toward the front surface of the cell where they leave the silicon and ride the silver grid lines to the external circuit. After traveling along the wires of the external circuit (whatever is the consumer of the energy the solar module is powering), electrons return from their journey and pass into the aluminum on the rear side of the cell and then fall into holes in the nearby silicon which were created when other electrons were freed. Thus, the action of the sunlight is to free electrons from their bound state, and the action of the built-in electric fields is to pump these electrons around the external circuit. To get more light into the silicon (and to give the cell a pleasing blue color), a silicon nitride anti-reflective coating is deposited on the front of the cell.
Our standard 3BB ARTisun cells, 156 mm pseudosquare, give about 8.7 Amps of current. This translates to about 4.25 Watts of power generated per cell
3.28.13 - Suniva wins Manufacturer of the Year for medium-sized manufacturers, presented at the 2013 annual “Movers & Makers” Awards, sponsored by Partnership Gwinnett and the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce
Upcoming 2014 Events
10.21.14 - 10.23.14
Solar Power International, Las Vegas, NV
Learn more about Suniva's financing options with TCC
When: Thursday, 10/23, 8:30-10:00am
Where: MGM Grand
RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org for details
- Past Events, 2013 - 2014
2.3.14 - Advanced Manufacturing Partnership Regional Meeting, Atlanta - Georgia Institute of Technology
Plant Manager, Paul Schneider, Panelist
2.26.14 - 2.28.14
International PV Expo, Tokyo
KGK Booth # E30-26
3.10.14 - 3.11.14
Soligent Dealer Conference, Las Vegas
3.20.14 - 3.21.14
Schletter Workshop, East Granby, CT
Suniva presents at GEXPRO Minnesota Solar Roadshow
8:00am - 3:00pm
Best Western, 14201 Nicollet Avenue, Burnsville, MN 55337
5.28.14 - 5.29.14
MIREC, Camino Real Polanco, Mexico
7.8.14 - 7.10.14
Intersolar North America, San Francisco, CA
Solar Powering Michigan, Traverse City, MI
VP Global Sales and Markeing, Matt Card presenting
1.31.13 - 2.1.13
Solar Innovation Conference (Soligent), Las Vegas
2.6.13 - 2.8.13
American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE), New Orleans
Airport Planning, Design and Construction Symposium
Important Webinar: Understanding GA Power's New Solar Initiative with a focus on commercial/medium-scale options
Sponsored by Suniva, and featuring speakers from Georgia Power, Key Bank and Suniva.
2.10.13 - 2.13.13
6th Annual AEE Solar Dealer Conference, San Diego
2.25.13 - 2.26.13
Caribbean Energy Policy & Procurement Planning (CEPPP):
Aligning Key Stakeholders for Regional Sustainability, Bridgetown, Barbados
2.27.13 - 3.1.13
6th Annual PV Power Generation Expo, Tokyo, Japan
Global Cities Initiative, Atlanta
CEO, John Baumstark, panelist
4.4.13 - 4.5.13
Ex-Im Bank Annual Conference, Washington D.C.
CEO, John Baumstark, panelist
4.22.13 - 4.24.13
Greentech Media's 6th annual Solar Summit, Phoenix
CMO, Bryan Ashley, speaking
4.30.13 - 5.1.13
REFF Latin America/Caribbean, Miami
Webinar: Leverage the benefits of 1000 VDC systems!
CLICK for presentation
CBS - Eye on the Environment, Studio City, CA
Techncial training with Gexpro, Enphase, DPW Solar and Quick Mount PV, Walnut Creek, CA
Louisana's Solar Tax Credit Rules to Change, Effective July 1st
(Click) to learn about Suniva's ARRA and BAA-compliant modules!
7.9.13 - 7.11.13
Intersolar North America, San Francisco
7.18.13, (1-2pm ET)
Webinar: "What Makes PV Module Truly Bankable? The Importance of Quality Materials for Long-term Reliability and Performance"
Hosted by Dr. Stephen Shea of Suniva and Dr. Sarah Kurtz of NREL
10.9.13 - 10.11.13
CREF - Caribbean Renewable Energy Forum,
The Westin Resort Aruba
10.21.13 - 10.24.13
Solar Power International (SPI), Chicago
Exhibitor, Booth # 2415
Solar Opportunities in Georgia and Tennessee, Atlanta
Anthony Coker, panelist
RSVP to: email@example.com
Sustainability Forum, Emory Goizueta Business School, Atlanta
Anthony Coker, panelist
6:30 - 8:30pm
Dealing with a Solar Spill - Harnessing the Sun & Living Sustainably
Wylde Center, Decatur, GA - FREE event
Could solar electric power work for you? What does it mean to live the sustainable life?
Join Sol Haroon, Lead Systems Engineer for a look into what solar electric power is today and how to harness the sun. This solar tour and look "underneath the hood" will be within the context of living a sustainable life and the many grounds that such a life covers.
Atlanta Cleantech Forum, Atlanta
John Baumstark, panelist
RSVP to: firstname.lastname@example.org
American Energy and Manufacturing Competitiveness Summit (AEMC), Washington, D.C.
Vice President Research and Development, Bruce McPherson, panelist