Video: Understanding the Electrical Current Produced by Photovoltaic Cells

What type of current do photovoltaic cells generate?

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Video Transcript

What type of current do photovoltaic cells generate?

Okay, the first thing we can look into is just what photovoltaic cells are and what they do. A photovoltaic cell is a special sort of structure where if we shine sunlight on it, if we put radiant energy on the cell, then it’s capable of converting that radiant energy into electrical energy. In other words, if a wire is connected up to the cell, then electrical current will flow out from it. All this happens due to what’s called the photovoltaic effect. It involves taking light energy, radiant energy, and converting it to electrical energy, producing a voltage.

Our question is asking, as this process goes on, what kind of current is generated by the cell? To answer this question, it’s important to know that photovoltaic cells don’t involve any magnets in rotational motion. There are no electrical currents running through rotating armatures as in a generator. And there’s no north and south pole or up and down direction that is varied in the power generation process. All that to say, there’s never any reason for the current produced by a photovoltaic cell to change direction. It always moves the same way through the outgoing wire. The name for this kind of current, current that always moves in the same direction, is direct current. And the fact that this is the kind of current that photovoltaic cells generate is another advantage of these cells. This is because direct current is just the type of current that many electrical appliances require.

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