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Crystalline Silicon Photovolatic Cell Basics

Crystalline silicon cells are made of silicon atoms connected to one another to form a crystal lattice. This lattice comprises the solid material that forms the photovoltaic (PV) cell's semiconductors. This section describes the atomic structure and bandgap energy of these cells.
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Different PV materials have different energy band gaps. Photons with energy equal to the band gap energy are absorbed to create free electrons. Photons with less energy than the band gap energy pass through the material.

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In the basic unit of a crystalline silicon solid, a silicon atom shares each of its four valence electrons with each of four neighboring atoms.

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As depicted in this simplified diagram, silicon has 14 electrons. The four electrons that orbit the nucleus in the outermost "valence" energy level are given to, accepted from, or shared with other atoms.

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