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How does a solar cell change light into electrical energy?

All solar power devices that I know about operate by getting the light to separate charges - basically to move an electron from where it would like to be. This is also the principle that chlorophyll in plants uses. If you can maintain that separated charge, you get energy just as in an electrical capacitor. The actual operation is usually a little more complicated (inducing an excess current in a semiconductor for instance) but that is the basic idea - the light energy goes into exciting an electron into a state away from where it best cancels the charge on the atom it was attached to.

Arthur Smith

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