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Handbook of Energy by Christopher G. Morris, Cutler J. Cleveland

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Section 15

Photovoltaics

The photovoltaic (PV) effect is the process in which two dissimilar materials in close contact produce an electrical voltage when struck by light or other radiant energy. The photovoltaic effect has tremendous potential for society because it offers a way to generate electricity with little pollution from an energy source that is inexhaustible: the Sun.

Nineteen-year-old Edmund Becquerel, a French experimental physicist, discovered the photovoltaic effect while experimenting with an electrolytic cell made up of two metal electrodes. In this experiment, silver chloride was placed in an acidic solution and illuminated while connected to platinum electrodes, generating voltage and current (1839). A few decades later U.S. ...

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