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Principle of Photocell
Factors affecting Photoelectric Effect
Mechanism and type of Photocell
Features of Photocell
Comparison of Photocell
Ideal Photocell location with Watchdog System
Application of Photocell



The photoelectric effect or photoemission is the production of electrons or other

free carriers when light is shone onto a material. Electrons emitted in this manner can be
called photoelectrons. The phenomenon is commonly studied in electronic physics.
According to classical electromagnetic theory, this effect can be attributed to the transfer
of energy from the light to an electron.
In 1886 and 1887, Heinrich Hertz did experiments that confirmed Maxwells
classical theory of electromagnetic waves. In the course of these experiments, Hertz
discovered the effect that Einstein later used to introduce the quantum theory of EM
waves. Hertz produced sparks between two metal knobs by applying a large potential
difference. He noticed that when the knobs were exposed to ultraviolet light, the sparks
became stronger. He had discovered the photoelectric effect in which EM radiation
incident on a metal surface causes electrons to be ejected from a metal.
Later experiments by another German physicist, Philip von Lenard (1862-1947),
found results that were puzzling in the framework of classical physics and were first
explained by Einstein in 1905. Figure 27.4 shows an apparatus similar to one invented by
Lenard to study the photoelectric effect. EM radiation (visible light or UV) falls on the
metal plate; some of the emitted electron make their way to the collecting wire, which
completes the circuit.
Many applications used photoelectric effect with the emitted electrons called
photoelectrons. Elevator systems is the one of the applications that use a beam of light
and photoelectric device known as photocell as a safety feature. Other applications of
using photoelectric effects are television camera tubes, light-activated counters,elevators,
intrusion alarms and turn on street lights at dawn. We focus more on the applicaton of
photocell in street lights and elevators. To conclude, photoelectric effect have many
benefits in many application in our daily life to make our lives easier.

Principle of photocell
Photocell is an electronic device that generate electricity when light falls on

them.Photocell consists of anode(positive terminal) and cathode(negative terminal) inside

an evacuated glass. The negative terminal of photocell is coated with photosensitive
compound. Photocell also known as photoelectric cell.
Light is a form of energy, since energy can be converted to other form, it is possible for
light that falls on photocell to be converted to electricity. Electricity produced by light
beam is called photoelectricity.
Photocell worked based on photoelectric effect. Photoelectric effect is the emission of
electron from a surface of material due to the exposure of the material to electromagnetic
radiation.Photoelectric effect occurs when light beam shone on metal which in our case a
photocell, the light beam can be considered as train of energetic particles called photon.
The photon will transfer its energy in fixed quantities to atom inside the metal and
knocked out the electrons out of the atom to produce electric current. Photoelectric effect
allows electrons to be free from the cathode of photocell and travel to anode. [ Refer to
Figure 1 ]
Quantum Theory can be used to explain photoelectric effect with further detail.The first
theory is electron can only absorb or emit energy in discrete (separate) amount called
quanta or packet, which means that energy can exist in fixed amount only.Quanta is the
smallest elemental unit of quantity. A photon is a quanta but not all quanta is a photon.
This theory can be related with photoelectric effect when photon transfer energy in fixed
quantities to the atom of a metal of photocell.
The second theory is energy of each quanta is proportional to frequency of light. This is
because, when light with high frequency falls on photocell, the metal of photocell is
bombarded with high energy photon causing electron to have more energy than the
amount of energy that must be supplied to break the bond between metal and one of its
electron( work function) causing easier for electron to be ejected. So, the higher the
frequency of light, the larger the energy of quanta and thus the larger amount of current
The third theory is energy of quanta can be calculated by:
E=hf = hc/

E is energy of quanta, h is Planck s constant ( 6.62607004 10-34 m2 kg / s ), f is

frequency of light, sometimes written as v, c is speed of light and is wavelenght. The
higher the frequency of light, the higher the energy of quanta. The higher the wavelenght
of light, the lower the energy of quanta.Maximum kinetic energy can be calculated by:
Ekmax = hf
where is work function.
Comparison Between Plancks Quantum Theory with Classical Electromagnetic
Radiation Theory
Plancks Theory

Classical Electromagnetic Radiation Theory

Energy of radiation( quanta ) is discrete.

Energy of radiation is continuosly.

Energy of radiatio (quanta) depend on

frequency and wavelenght.
Energy of quanta can be calculated by:
h= 6.62607004 10-34 m2 kg / s
f = frequency of light

Energy of radiation does not depend on

frequency and wavelenght.

Factors affecting photoelectric effect.

1. Intensity of light
If a high intense of light of frequency equal or greater than threshold frequency falls on
the surface of matter, the photoelectric effect is caused. The emission of electrons does
not depend upon the intensity of light unless the frequency of light is greater than
threshold frequency.
2. Frequency
If a beam of light with frequency equal to or greater than threshold frequency strike the
surface of matter, photoelectric effect is produced. If frequency is less than the threshold
frequency then photoelectric effect cannot be seen. The threshold frequency varies from
matter to matter.
3. Number of photoelectrons
The increase in intensity of light increases the number of photoelectrons , provided the
frequency is greater than threshold frequency. In short, the number of photoelectrons
increases the photoelectric current.
4. Kinetic energy of photoelectrons.
The kinetic energy of photoelectrons increases when light of high energy falls on the
surface of matter. When energy of light is equal to threshold energy than electrons are
emitted from the surface whereas when energy is greater than threshold energy then the
photoelectric current is produced. The threshold frequency is not same for all kinds of
matter in it varies from matter to matter.

Types of photocells and its mechanism.

Light, like all other radiation, is made up of small particles called photons. The amount of
energy the photons have depends on the frequency of the light. The frequency of light is
the number of times that a light wave vibrates in a second. The higher the frequency, the
more energy the photons have. If a photon hits an atom of a certain material, it may be
absorbed by an electron of that material. If the photon has enough energy, the electron is
ejected, or emitted, from the atom. In this way, light energy changes into electrical
energy. Photoemission cells are used in motion picture projectors to read film sound
tracks. [ Refer Figure 2 ]
2. Photoconductive
It results from light hitting a semiconductor.Semiconductors contain free, negatively
charged electrons. A free electron is an electron that has left its atom and so is not bound
to it. When the electron leaves its atom, it creates a positive charge in the atom. The
positive charge attracts an electron from another atom. This process repeats itself,
creating an electric current. When light falls on semiconductors, the number of electrons
leaving their atoms increases. This increases the current. A streetlight is a good example
of an application of photoconductivity. [ Refer Figure 3 ]
3. Photovoltaic
Photovoltaic cells are made up of at least 2 semi-conductor layers. One layer containing
a positive charge, the other a negative charge . In this effect, light falls on two
semiconductors, or on a metal and a semiconductor sandwiched together. A boundary
develops between these two substances. Free electrons build up along the boundary but
cannot flow across it. However, if the two substances are connected in a circuit, then the
electrons can flow across it. The voltage generated from a single photovoltaic cell is
typically a fraction of a volt. Photovoltaic cells are used in exposure meters for
photography. [ Refer Figure 4 ]
Comparison between photoconductive and photovoltaic
Photoelectric devices can be grouped into two main categories, those which generate

electricity when illuminated, such as Photovoltaics or Photoemissives and those which

change their electrical properties in some way such as Photoresistors or Photoconductors.
This leads to the following comparison of devices.
refered to as light dependant resistors (LDR).

technical term for solar cell

change their electrical properties

generate electricity when illuminated

A Photoconductive light sensor does not

Convert light energy directly into DC electrical

produce electricity but simply changes its

energy in the form of a voltage or current to a

physical properties when subjected to light

power a resistive load such as a light, battery

These devices consist of a thin single-crystal

or motor.
made from single crystal silicon PN junctions

or polycrystalline film of compound

with a very large light sensitive region.

semiconductor substances. the

Materials presently used for photovoltaics

commercially important ones are cadmium

include monocrystalline silicon, polycrystalline

sulfide, germanium, and silicon. The spectral

silicon, amorphous silicon, cadmium telluride,

response of the cadmium sulfide cell closely

and copper indium gallium selenide/sulphide

matches that of the human eye.

sensitive to light in the visible spectrum.

solar cells work best using the suns radiant

Typically then, it has a peak sensitivity


wavelength (p) of about 560nm to 600nm in

the visible spectral range.
often used in auto dimming, darkness or

Solar cells are used in many different types of

twilight detection for turning the street lights

applications to offer an alternative power

ON and OFF, and for photographic

source from conventional batteries, such as in

exposure meter type applications.

calculators, satellites and now in homes

offering a form of renewable power.

How to position photocells to achieve maximum effectiveness with the Watchdog

Watchdog system is a Lighting control and monitoring: ensures lights turn on and off
according to your schedule. Using powerful, integrated template-based reporting
mechanisms, Watchdog turns your data into information. Sends detailed alarm messages
at the first sign of problems, alerting staff by pager, voicemail, and email.
[Refer to figure MEGA 1a and 1b ]
The ideal location for placing photocells is:
A location where direct light dominates total incident light. Generally, this means the
photocell is mounted high, close to the ceiling and the light source, and away from the
A location where the DIZ (Direct interference zone) and ISZ (indirect sensitive zone)
are as small as possible and where they do not overlap significantly with filled room
space. Filled room space refers to the volume of a room that is occupied by people and
equipment. Generally, this means the photocell is mounted high, close to the ceiling and
the light source, and away from the floor and interfering objects.
A location where the distances between the photocell and all of the sources of light in a
room are the same, or more exactly, a location where the light emitted from each light
source contributes equally to the total amount of light detected by the photocell. This
minimizes the possibility of any one fixture dominating the direct light total.
A location that is not affected by non-Watchdog controlled lights. In other words, the
use of non-Watchdog lights, or lights that are controlled by third party systems (including
night lighting or lights using Intermatic timers) are not recommend for use with the
Watchdog system. If non-Watchdog-controlled lights are used, a different calibration
procedure is usually required.


1) Elevator
Most elevators have two door panels that meet in the middle and slide open to the sides
The automatic doors in an elevator are absolutely essential. The automatic door works
with the uses of photocells. In elevator application the photocells are placed on each
floor. When the elevator gets to one of the floors, the photocell that is on that floor will
receive less light. This will trigger the elevator doors to open on the right floor and
prevented people from falling down an open shaft. The elevator also uses through beam
sensor that are placed on the left and right side of the elevator (refer figure NURIN A)
When an object interrupts the light beam, preventing the light from reaching the receiver ,
the output will energise which is referred to as Dark-on (normally open) operate
switching mode or normally open. Light-on normally closed operate switching mode or
normally closed output in reflex sensor is true when the object is not blocking the light
beam (refer figure NURIN B) This will prevent the doors from closing when there are
people between the doors. Hence, with the presence of photocell the people In
conclusion, the photocells help to reduce the incidents from elevator and elevator can be
used safely.
2) Burglar alarm
Nowadays, robbery cases are frequently happen. In order to prevent this misfortune from
happening, a wise step can be taken. Install the burglar alarm. In burglar alarm, ultraviolet
light is continuously made to fall on the photo-cell installed at the door-way (refer figure
NURIN C). A person entering the door interrupts the beam falling on the photo-cell. The
abrupt change in photo current is used to start an electric bell ringing. Alarms are set up
to work the opposite way, so the main circuit is normally closed (when the alarm is
inactive and everything is fine) and opens (when an intruder activates it). Either way,
when an intruder's been detected, the circuit flip from one state to the other and that's
what activates the alarm.
3) Street light
The most commonly used component in streetlights is called a cadmium sulphide
photoconductive, or a CdS cell for short (refer figure NURIN D). The CdS cell changes
the resistance of a circuit depending on the amount of light shining on it. When lots of
light falls on a CdS cell, then the resistance is very low, which means it conducts
electricity well. When there is not much light, the photo-resistor has a high resistance
which means not much current can flow.This change in current can then be used to
control a relay. A relay is basically an electromagnetic switch; when the electromagnet
has a high current (lots of light falling on the photo-resistor daytime) then it pushes the
switch open so no current can flow to the streetlight. When it gets dark, then not much
current can flow to the electromagnet so the switch closes and allows electricity to flow
to the streetlight, turning it on(Refer figure NURIN E)

Photocell plays many important roles in our lives such as count vehicles passing
on road, count item running on conveyer belt, open doors automatically, street
light and operate bulgar alarm. For example, just imagine without photocell, we
need to switch on the light for all night long and waste the electricity ! Therefore,
photocell is a really great invention since it is a low maintenance and no neeed for
power cable. But not all photocell are the same. They might looks the same but
they works differently. So, if you want to use the photocell pick out the right type
of photocell or else your application would not turn out well. For example, for
street light application, photoresistor is the most suitable photocell since it can
detect darkness and turn the light on. Hopefully, in 2020 the usage of photocell
can be use widely not only in industrial development but also in medical and
agriculture so that our country can save the energy more effectively and become
an advanced and green country.



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