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Solar concentrators and how they affect the performance of solar cellsFeatured science projectScience project video

Abstract

This experiment was done to find out how different types of solar concentrators affect the performance of solar cells. The tests were carried out using a parabolic dish covered with a reflective aluminum sheet and a mirror

Hypothesis

Using parabolic mirrors will help achieve the highest level of photovoltaic output from solar cells.

Scientific Terms

Solar cell, photovoltaic cells, solar concentrator, monocrystalline cells, polycrystalline cells, amorphous cells, ammeter, voltmeter

Background

Solar cells

Solar cells are used to harness the power of the sun, converting light into electricity. They are made from silicon, which is found in abundance on our planet. There are generally 3 types of solar cells in existence:

Monocrystalline solar cells - with a good solar energy conversion rate between 12% - 16%. However, these cells are very difficult and expensive to manufacture.

Polycrystalline solar cells - with a lower solar energy conversion rate between 11% - 13% but which are cheaper to manufacture.

Amorphous solar cells - with the lowest solar energy conversion rate between 8% - 10% and which is the cheapest to manufacture

A solar cell typically produces an output voltage of about 0.5Vdc. This voltage can be increased by connecting the solar cells in a series. To increase the output current, the solar cells need to be connected in parallel.

Solar reflectors

Solar reflectors are devices used to reflect the parallel rays of the sun onto the surface of the solar panel to enhance the efficiency of the solar cells. They are normally parabolic in shape.

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Complexity level:
5
Project cost ($):
50
Time required:
1 hour to prepare, 1 hour for experiment
Material availability:
Purchase solar cells from hobby engineering stores or from school science laboratory suppliers
Safety concerns:

Long hours of exposure to the sun may cause dizziness, dehydration or heat stroke. Make sure you drink an adequate amount of water and put on sunscreen. You should ensure that you protect yourself with an umbrella or wear a hat as you will be under the sun for a fair amount of time.