The Function of Silicon in Solar Systems

Without silicon solar just doesn’t happen – this is primarily because solar cells are made up of silicon that is 100% pure.  

Silicon has been an important component of electricity for aeons, with solar technology being created in the 1950s. At present almost all solar cells are made from pure silicon. 

What you should know about silicon and its role in solar 

  • Pure silicon is a rather poor conductor of electricity. This is because the material is a semi-conductor  
  • To circumvent this issue, the silicon in solar cells contains impurities to improve conductivity, with atoms deliberately combined with the silicon atoms to improve the function of capturing the sun’s energy, thus transforming it into electricity 
  • Electron-rich layers are created by placing arsenic atoms between silicon atoms ensuring that there is a surplus of electrons in solar cells 
  • When gallium atoms are used in silicon cells there will be too few electrons – therefore, in solar cells, the cells are placed alongside each other (the cells with gallium and the cells with arsenic) to form an electric field 
  • As sunlight hits solar cells, the field is energised thus generating electricity  

There are three main types of silicon solar cells 

Monocrystalline solar cells which are also referred to as singlecrystalline cells 

These are easily identifiable as they are black in colour and comprise pure silicon which results in an efficient conversion of sunlight into electricity 

Additionally, monocrystalline solar cells enjoy longevity and are spaceefficient 

Monocrystalline cells are the most expensive solar option 

Polycrystalline solar cells 

Polycrystalline solar cells are often referred to as multi-silicon cells 

Polycrystalline cells were the first solar cells introduced into the solar industry in the early 1980s 

These solar cells do not undergo the same intense process of cutting (as the monocrystalline cells do), thus making them a lot less expensive 

During the manufacturing process, the silicon is melted down and poured into square moulds 

The polycrystalline cells are far less efficient and require plenty of space  

Polycrystalline do not function as efficiently as monocrystalline cells 

Amorphous solar cells 

Amorphous silicon cells have no shape – they are neither crystallised nor structured in any way whatsoever 

Amorphous cells have been used for smaller applications such as solar clocks, torches and calculators as their power is extremely low in relation to other types of solar cells 

When numerous amorphous solar sells are stacked one on top of the other, they can perform surprisingly well 

Solar and silicon are like a horse and carriage – the one without the other simply cannot function properly.