Light can be separated into many different wavelengths. Consequently, the light that hits the power cell has a wide range of energies, and different semiconductor materials react differently to different light wavelengths. The constant struggle of the manufacturers is to develop a semiconductor medium that makes maximum use of all the available light energy. Some solar electric cells have layers of semiconductor mediums, even layers of different mediums, in an attempt to maximize efficiencies.
Now letís get into specifics. The most common type of solar cell is Crystalline Silicon, of which there are two primary types; Single-Crystalline Silicon and Poly-Crystalline Silicon. Single-Crystalline is more efficient but also more expensive to produce (usually limited to commercial and residential applications). Both are still very fragile, and usually sandwiched between rigid sheets of glass, for protection.
However, for our purposes as outdoor enthusiasts letís concentrate of some of the more recent developments in portable solar energy solutions Ė the more portable thin-film technology. There are several types of thin film solar products on the market (and under research) today, but we will focus on the most popular products:
1) Amorphous Silicon. Most commonly using the p-i-n structure. A time-tested and very durable product, but not yielding the highest photovoltaic efficiency of the group. What does that mean? Panels with less photovoltaic efficiency require more area (square inches) of panel size to achieve the same amount of wattage, because they donít make quite as efficient use of the available light. One advantage to this structure however, is improved power output in low light conditions.So in addition to looking at the size, weight, wattage, portability and price of the solar cell, you will also want to consider whether you will be using your solar cells in mostly sunny, partly sunny, or shady applications. Amorphous Silicon (especially multi-junction amorphous silicon) is better when you canít count on 100% sunny applications, but a multi-junction solution like CIGS can create a more compact solution in full sun, due to its increased photovoltaic efficiencies. Where applicable, we will try and share with you (with as much information as the manufacturers are willing to provide) the type of solar cell in each of the solar products we offer.
your most adventuresome expeditions. The Solar Power Store is a division of ROC Gear, Inc., your online specialty gear supplier. In case you need other
outdoor gear, be sure to check out our other specialty sites at www.rocgear.com. ROC Gear is located at 116 Commerce Commons, Commerce, GA 30529.