Curious Kids: how do solar panels work?
Updated: Jun 22, 2020
The Sun produces a lot of energy called solar energy. Australia gets 20,000 times more energy from the Sun each day than we do from oil, gas and coal. This solar energy will continue for as long as the Sun lives, which is another 5 billion years.
Solar panels are made of solar cells, which is the part that turns the solar energy in sunlight into electricity.
Solar cells make electricity directly from sunlight. It is the most trusted energy technology ever made, which is why it is used on satellites in space and in remote places on Earth where it is hard to fix problems.
How do solar cells work?
Solar cells are made using silicon atoms. An atom is basically a building block – just like a Lego brick but so tiny you’d need a special machine to see them.
Because the silicon atoms are so small you need trillions and trillions of them for a solar cell.
To make the solar cell you need a wafer layer of silicon, about the same size as a dinner plate but much much thinner – only about three times the thickness of a strand of your hair.
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