Chapter Experiment Dueling Solar Cells

Your second experiment deals with solar cells that produce DC power directly from sunlight. Solar cell technology has been around for about fifty years and was developed primarily for our early space program to power orbiting satellites. We've come a long way since then in terms of technology improvements and applications for solar cells. But one thing that is overlooked by the general public is the fact that electricity can be produced directly from sunlight, which is truly a marvel by itself. Just consider pointing a slab of material at the sun and getting electricity directly from it, something that Thomas Edison probably never thought possible. And consider the "Third Law" of Arthur C. Clarke, the author of 2001 - A Space Odyssey and a pioneer in communications satellites in the 1960's: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic". Solar cells definitely fit into this category.

Now consider powering your house completely from the sun some ten or twenty years from now; that is, without any connection to the conventional AC power grid. Sound impossible? We don't think so. As solar cell technologies continue to advance beyond today's developments, this promise can come true, but only if inspired people take hold of the current solar cell technology and move it ahead to this future point. As a student or experimenter, you are in a position to do just that; that is, improve on solar cell designs so that you and your (future) family can enjoy the benefits and advantages of clean, un-polluting power. Hopefully, this experiment and the one that follows, "Building a Solar Cell Sun Tracker", will inspire you to meet this challenge and make us all less dependent on conventional energy.

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