Summary
Solar energy conversion describes technologies devoted to the transformation of solar energy to other (useful) forms of energy, including electricity, fuel, and heat. It covers light-harvesting technologies including traditional semiconductor photovoltaic devices (PVs), emerging photovoltaics, solar fuel generation via electrolysis, artificial photosynthesis, and related forms of photocatalysis directed at the generation of energy rich molecules. Fundamental electro-optical aspects in several emerging solar energy conversion technologies for generation of both electricity (photovoltaics) and solar fuels constitute an active area of current research. Solar cells started in 1876 with William Grylls Adams along with an undergraduate student of his. A French scientist, by the name of Edmond Becquerel, first discovered the photovoltaic effect in the summer of 1839. He theorized that certain elements on the periodic table, such as silicon, reacted to the exposure of sunlight in very unusual ways. Solar power is created when solar radiation is converted to heat or electricity. English electrical engineer Willoughby Smith, between 1873 and 1876, discovered that when selenium is exposed to light, it produced a high amount of electricity. The use of selenium was highly inefficient, but it proved Becquerel's theory that light could be converted into electricity through the use of various semi-metals on the periodic table, that were later labelled as photo-conductive material. By 1953, Calvin Fuller, Gerald Pearson, and Daryl Chapin discovered the use of silicon to produce solar cells was extremely efficient and produced a net charge that far exceeded that of selenium. Today solar power has many uses, from heating, electrical production, thermal processes, water treatment and storage of power that is highly prevalent in the world of renewable energy. By the 1960s solar power was the standard for powering space-bound satellites. In the early 1970s, solar cell technology became cheaper and more available ($20/watt).
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