Solar Cell Types

  • What type of solar cell gives the best performance? (poly crystalline silicon, single crystalline silicon, other)

Recommended Items:

  • Digital multi meter
  • Several different types of solar cells made from different material

Concepts used:

  • Solar cells, Materials processing, Thin films, Crystallinity, Semiconductor


Solar cells are devices that absorb light energy and convert it in to electrical energy. Electricity flows through materials from negatively rich areas to positively rich areas, and this flow of electrons is called current. Current flows from one side of the solar cell, through an external load (like a light bulb or an electrical appliance) to the other side of the solar cell in a circuit.

Solar cells can be made using a variety of different materials and processes. Some solar cells are made from a material called silicon (the primary component of sand or of quartz). These cells can be either grown as single crystals or in a polycrystalline form. The difference between the two types of cells is easy to see as the first appears to be a uniform black color with silver lines crossing it, the second looks as if there are adjacent regions of varying blue color. Other cell materials rely thin films solar cells or on other materials, such as copper-indium-gallium-sulfide (CIGS). Each different type of solar cells has a different electrical output and different costs associated with it. In this experiment, several solar cell types are tested under identical lighting conditions and the performance of the various cell types are compared.

An additional concept to test involves the use of solar concentrators. Light can be focused, or concentrated, onto solar cells to impact their electrical performance. This can be done by using a mirror and reflecting light onto a cell or by using lenses to focus light onto the cell area. In this experiment, take a solar cell and test its performance under different illumination conditions. This can be done by trying to reflect more light onto the cell with mirrors or by focusing light using a lens. Also adjust the angle the cell is placed at. Be sure to record the output voltage for each of the tests.

Read More: