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Theory of Solar Cells

The theory of solar cells explains the process by which light energy in photons is
converted into electric current when the photons strike a suitable semiconductor device.
The theoretical studies are of practical use because they predict the fundamental limits
of solar cell, and give guidance on the phenomena that contribute to losses and solar
cell efficiency.

Simple explanation
1. Photons in sunlight hit the solar panel and are absorbed by semi-conducting
2. Electrons (negatively charged) are knocked loose from their atoms as they are
excited. Due to their special structure and the materials in solar cells, the
electrons are only allowed to move in a single direction. The electronic structure
of the materials is very important for the process to work, and often silicon
incorporating small amounts of boron or phosphorus is used in different layers.
3. An array of solar cells converts solar energy into a usable amount of direct
current (DC) electricity.

Photogeneration of charge carriers

When a photon hits a piece of silicon, one of three things can happen:
1. The photon can pass straight through the silicon this (generally) happens for
lower energy photons.
2. The photon can reflect off the surface.
3. The photon can be absorbed by the silicon if the photon energy is higher than the
silicon band gap value. This generates an electron-hole pair and sometimes heat
depending on the band structure.
When a photon is absorbed, its energy is given to an electron in the crystal
lattice. Usually this electron is in the valence band and is tightly bound in covalent
bonds with neighboring atoms, and therefore unable to move far. The energy given to
the electron by the photon "excites" it into the conduction band where it is free to move
around within the semiconductor. The network of covalent bonds that the electron was

previously a part of now has one fewer electron. This is known as a hole . The presence
of a missing covalent bond allows the bonded electrons of neighboring atoms to move
into the "hole," leaving another hole behind, thus propagating holes throughout the
lattice. It can be said that photons absorbed in the semiconductor create electron-hole
A photon only needs to have energy greater than that of the band gap in order to
excite an electron from the valence band into the conduction band. However, the
solar frequency spectrum approximates a black body spectrum at about 5,800 K, and as
such, much of the solar radiation reaching the Earth is composed of photons with
energies greater than the band gap of silicon. These higher energy photons will be
absorbed by the solar cell, but the difference in energy between these photons and the
silicon band gap is converted into heat (via lattice vibrations called phonons) rather
than into usable electrical energy. The photovoltaic effect can also occur when two
photons are absorbed simultaneously in a process called two-photon photovoltaic
effect. However, high optical intensities are required for this nonlinear process.

The p-n junction

The most commonly known solar cell is configured as a large-area p-n junction
made from silicon. As a simplification, one can imagine bringing a layer of n-type silicon
into direct contact with a layer of p-type silicon. In practice, p-n junctions of silicon solar
cells are not made in this way, but rather by diffusing an n-type dopant into one side of a
p-type wafer (or vice versa).
If a piece of p-type silicon is placed in close contact with a piece of n-type silicon,
then a diffusion of electrons occurs from the region of high electron concentration (the
n-type side of the junction) into the region of low electron concentration (p-type side of
the junction). When the electrons diffuse across the p-n junction, they recombine with
holes on the p-type side. However, (in the absence of an external circuit) this diffusion of
carriers does not go on indefinitely because charges build up on either side of the
junction and create an electric field. The electric field promotes charge flow, known as

drift current, that opposes and eventually balances out the diffusion of electrons and
holes. This region where electrons and holes have diffused across the junction is called
the depletion region because it contains practically no mobile charge carriers. It is also
known as the space charge region, although space charge extends a bit further in both
directions than the depletion region.

Charge carrier separation

There are two causes of charge carrier motion and separation in a solar cell:
1. drift of carriers, driven by the electric field, with electrons being pushed one way
and holes the other way
2. diffusion of carriers from zones of higher carrier concentration to zones of lower
carrier concentration (following a gradient of electrochemical potential).
These two "forces" may work one against the other at any given point in the cell.
For instance, an electron moving through the junction from the p region to the n region
(as in the diagram at the beginning of this article) is being pushed by the electric field
against the concentration gradient. The same goes for a hole moving in the opposite
It is easiest to understand how a current is generated when considering electronhole pairs that are created in the depletion zone, which is where there is a strong
electric field. The electron is pushed by this field toward the n side and the hole toward
the p side. (This is opposite to the direction of current in a forward-biased diode, such
as a light-emitting diode in operation.) When the pair is created outside the space
charge zone, where the electric field is smaller, diffusion also acts to move the carriers,
but the junction still plays a role by sweeping any electrons that reach it from the p side
to the n side, and by sweeping any holes that reach it from the n side to the p side,
thereby creating a concentration gradient outside the space charge zone.
In thick solar cells there is very little electric field in the active region outside the
space charge zone, so the dominant mode of charge carrier separation is diffusion. In

these cells the diffusion length of minority carriers (the length that photo-generated
carriers can travel before they recombine) must be large compared to the cell thickness.
In thin film cells (such as amorphous silicon), the diffusion length of minority carriers is
usually very short due to the existence of defects, and the dominant charge separation
is therefore drift, driven by the electrostatic field of the junction, which extends to the
whole thickness of the cell.
Once the minority carrier enters the drift region, it is 'swept' across the junction
and, at the other side of the junction, becomes a majority carrier. This reverse current is
a generation current, fed both thermally and (if present) by the absorption of light. On
the other hand, majority carriers are driven into the drift region by diffusion (resulting
from the concentration gradient), which leads to the forward current; only the majority
carriers with the highest energies (in the so-called Boltzmann tail; cf. Maxwell
Boltzmann statistics) can fully cross the drift region. Therefore, the carrier distribution in
the whole device is governed by a dynamic equilibrium between reverse current and
forward current.

Connection to an external load

Ohmic metal-semiconductor contacts are made to both the n-type and p-type
sides of the solar cell, and the electrodes connected to an external load. Electrons that
are created on the n-type side, or created on the p-type side, "collected" by the junction
and swept onto the n-type side, may travel through the wire, power the load, and
continue through the wire until they reach the p-type semiconductor-metal contact.
Here, they recombine with a hole that was either created as an electron-hole pair on the
p-type side of the solar cell, or a hole that was swept across the junction from the n-type
side after being created there.
The voltage measured is equal to the difference in the quasi Fermi levels of the
majority carriers (electrons in the n-type portion and holes in the p-type portion) at the
two terminals.

A microprocessor is a computer processor which incorporates the functions of a
computer's central processing unit (CPU) on a single integrated circuit (IC), or at most a
few integrated circuits. The microprocessor is a multipurpose, clock driven, register
based, programmable electronic device which accepts digital or binary data as input,
processes it according to instructions stored in its memory, and provides results as
output. Microprocessors contain both combinational logic and sequential digital logic.
Microprocessors operate on numbers and symbols represented in the binary numeral
The integration of a whole CPU onto a single chip or on a few chips greatly
reduced the cost of processing power. Integrated circuit processors are produced in
large numbers by highly automated processes resulting in a low per unit cost. Singlechip processors increase reliability as there are many fewer electrical connections to
fail. As microprocessor designs get faster, the cost of manufacturing a chip (with smaller
components built on a semiconductor chip the same size) generally stays the same.
Before microprocessors, small computers had been built using racks of circuit
boards with many medium- and small-scale integrated circuits. Microprocessors
combined this into one or a few large-scale ICs. Continued increases in microprocessor
capacity have since rendered other forms of computers almost completely obsolete (see
history of computing hardware), with one or more microprocessors used in everything
from the smallest embedded systems and handheld devices to the largest mainframes
and supercomputers.

The internal arrangement of a microprocessor varies depending on the age of the
design and the intended purposes of the microprocessor. The complexity of an
integrated circuit (IC) is bounded by physical limitations of the number of transistors that
can be put onto one chip, the number of package terminations that can connect the

processor to other parts of the system, the number of interconnections it is possible to

make on the chip, and the heat that the chip can dissipate. Advancing technology
makes more complex and powerful chips feasible to manufacture.
A minimal hypothetical microprocessor might only include an arithmetic logic
unit (ALU) and a control logic section. The ALU performs operations such as addition,
subtraction, and operations such as AND or OR. Each operation of the ALU sets one or
more flags in a status register, which indicate the results of the last operation (zero
value, negative number, overflow, or others). The control logic retrieves instruction
codes from memory and initiates the sequence of operations required for the ALU to
carry out the instruction. A single operation code might affect many individual data
paths, registers, and other elements of the processor.
As integrated circuit technology advanced, it was feasible to manufacture more
and more complex processors on a single chip. The size of data objects became larger;
allowing more transistors on a chip allowed word sizes to increase from 4- and 8bit words up to today's 64-bitwords. Additional features were added to the processor
architecture; more on-chip registers sped up programs, and complex instructions could
be used to make more compact programs. Floating-point arithmetic, for example, was
often not available on 8-bit microprocessors, but had to be carried out in software.
Integration of the floating point unit first as a separate integrated circuit and then as part
of the same microprocessor chip, sped up floating point calculations.
Occasionally, physical limitations of integrated circuits made such practices as
a bit slice approach necessary. Instead of processing all of a long word on one
integrated circuit, multiple circuits in parallel processed subsets of each data word.
While this required extra logic to handle, for example, carry and overflow within each
slice, the result was a system that could handle, for example, 32-bit words using
integrated circuits with a capacity for only four bits each.

With the ability to put large numbers of transistors on one chip, it becomes
feasible to integrate memory on the same die as the processor. This CPU cache has the
advantage of faster access than off-chip memory, and increases the processing speed
of the system for many applications. Processor clock frequency has increased more
rapidly than external memory speed, except in the recent past, so cache memory is
necessary if the processor is not delayed by slower external memory.

Special-purpose designs
A microprocessor is a general purpose system. Several specialized processing
devices have followed from the technology:
A digital signal processor (DSP) is specialized for signal processing.
Graphics processing units (GPUs) are processors designed primarily for realtime
rendering of 3D images. They may be fixed function (as was more common in the
1990s), or support programmable shaders. With the continuing rise of GPGPU, GPUs
are evolving into increasingly general purpose stream processors (running compute
shaders), whilst retaining hardware assist for rasterizing, but still differ from CPUs in
that they are optimized for throughput over latency, and are not suitable for running
application or OS code.
Other specialized units exist for video processing and machine vision.
Microcontrollers integrate a microprocessor with peripheral devices in embedded
systems. These tend to have different tradeoffs compared to CPUs.
32-bit processors have more digital logic than narrower processors, so 32-bit
(and wider) processors produce more digital noise and have higher static consumption
than narrower processors. Reducing digital noise improves ADC conversion results. So,
8- or 16-bit processors are better than 32-bit processors for system on a chip and
microcontrollers that require extremely low-power electronics, or are part of a mixed-

signal integrated circuit with noise-sensitive on-chip analog electronics such as highresolution analog to digital converters, or both.
Nevertheless, trade-offs apply: running 32-bit arithmetic on an 8-bit chip could
end up using more power, as the chip must execute software with multiple instructions.
Modern microprocessors go into low power states when possible, and a 8-bit chip
running 32-bit software is active most of the time. This creates a delicate balance
between software, hardware and use patterns, plus costs.
When manufactured on a similar process, 8-bit microprocessors use less power when
operating and less power when sleeping than 32-bit microprocessors.
However, some people say a 32-bit microprocessor may use less average power
than an 8-bit microprocessor when the application requires certain operations such as
floating-point math that take many more clock cycles on an 8-bit microprocessor than a
32-bit microprocessor so the 8-bit microprocessor spends more time in high-power
operating mode.

Embedded applications
Thousands of items that were traditionally not computer-related include
microprocessors. These include large and small household appliances, cars (and their
accessory equipment units), car keys, tools and test instruments, toys, light
switches/dimmers and electrical circuit breakers, smoke alarms, battery packs, and hi-fi
audio/visual components (from DVD players to phonograph turntables). Such products
as cellular telephones, DVD video system and HDTV broadcast systems fundamentally
require consumer devices with powerful, low-cost, microprocessors. Increasingly
stringent pollution control standards effectively require automobile manufacturers to use
microprocessor engine management systems, to allow optimal control of emissions over
widely varying operating conditions of an automobile. Non-programmable controls
would require complex, bulky, or costly implementation to achieve the results possible
with a microprocessor.

A microprocessor control program (embedded software) can be easily tailored to

different needs of a product line, allowing upgrades in performance with minimal
redesign of the product. Different features can be implemented in different models of a
product line at negligible production cost.
Microprocessor control of a system can provide control strategies that would be
impractical to implement using electromechanical controls or purpose-built electronic
controls. For example, an engine control system in an automobile can adjust ignition
timing based on engine speed, load on the engine, ambient temperature, and any
observed tendency for knockingallowing an automobile to operate on a range of fuel

Arduino is an open-source electronics platform based on easy-to-use hardware
and software. Arduino boards are able to read inputs - light on a sensor, a finger on a
button, or a Twitter message - and turn it into an output - activating a motor, turning on
an LED, publishing something online. You can tell your board what to do by sending a
set of instructions to the microcontroller on the board. To do so you use the Arduino
programming language (based on wiring), and the Arduino Software (IDE), based on
Over the years Arduino has been the brain of thousands of projects, from
everyday objects to complex scientific instruments. A worldwide community of makers students, hobbyists, artists, programmers, and professionals - has gathered around this
open-source platform, their contributions have added up to an incredible amount of
accessible knowledge that can be of great help to novices and experts alike.
Arduino was born at the Ivrea Interaction Design Institute as an easy tool for fast
prototyping, aimed at students without a background in electronics and programming.
As soon as it reached a wider community, the Arduino board started changing to adapt
to new needs and challenges, differentiating its offer from simple 8-bit boards to

products for IoT applications, wearable, 3D printing, and embedded environments. All
Arduino boards are completely open-source, empowering users to build them
independently and eventually adapt them to their particular needs. The software, too, is
open-source, and it is growing through the contributions of users worldwide.

GSM Modem
A GSM modem is a specialized type of modem which accepts a SIM card, and
operates over a subscription to a mobile operator, just like a mobile phone. From the
mobile operator perspective, a GSM modem looks just like a mobile phone.
When a GSM modem is connected to a computer, this allows the computer to
use the GSM modem to communicate over the mobile network. While these GSM
modems are most frequently used to provide mobile internet connectivity, many of them
can also be used for sending and receiving SMS and MMS messages.
A GSM modem can be a dedicated modem device with a serial, USB or
Bluetooth connection, or it can be a mobile phone that provides GSM modem
For the purpose of this document, the term GSM modem is used as a generic term to
refer to any modem that supports one or more of the protocols in the GSM evolutionary
family, including the 2.5G technologies GPRS and EDGE, as well as the 3G
technologies WCDMA, UMTS, HSDPA and HSUPA.
A GSM modem exposes an interface that allows applications such as NowSMS
to send and receive messages over the modem interface. The mobile operator charges
for this message sending and receiving as if it was performed directly on a mobile
phone. To perform these tasks, a GSM modem must support an extended AT command
set for sending/receiving SMS messages, as defined in the ETSI GSM 07.05 and and
3GPP TS 27.005 specifications.

GSM modems can be a quick and efficient way to get started with SMS, because
a special subscription to an SMS service provider is not required. In most parts of the
world, GSM modems are a cost effective solution for receiving SMS messages,
because the sender is paying for the message delivery.
A GSM modem can be a dedicated modem device with a serial, USB or
Bluetooth connection, such as the Falcom Samba 75. (Other manufacturers of
dedicated GSM modem devices include Wavecom, Multitech and iTegno. Weve also
reviewed a number of modems on our technical support blog.) To begin, insert a GSM
SIM card into the modem and connect it to an available USB port on your computer.
A GSM modem could also be a standard GSM mobile phone with the appropriate
cable and software driver to connect to a serial port or USB port on your computer. Any
phone that supports the extended AT command set for sending/receiving SMS
messages, as defined in ETSI GSM 07.05 and/or 3GPP TS 27.005, can be supported
by the Now SMS & MMS Gateway. Note that not all mobile phones support this modem
Due to some compatibility issues that can exist with mobile phones, using a
dedicated GSM modem is usually preferable to a GSM mobile phone. This is more of an
issue with MMS messaging, where if you wish to be able to receive inbound MMS
messages with the gateway, the modem interface on most GSM phones will only allow
you to send MMS messages. This is because the mobile phone automatically
processes received MMS message notifications without forwarding them via the modem
It should also be noted that not all phones support the modem interface for
sending and receiving SMS messages. In particular, most smart phones, including
Blackberries, iPhone, and Windows Mobile devices, do not support this GSM modem
interface for sending and receiving SMS messages at all at all. Additionally, Nokia
phones that use the S60 (Series 60) interface, which is Symbian based, only support

sending SMS messages via the modem interface, and do not support receiving SMS via
the modem interface.