Who invented solar panels?

A solar panel, or photovoltaic cell, is an electrical device that converts the energy of light directly into electricity by the photovoltaic effect, which is a physical and chemical phenomenon

In reality, solar energy is nothing new. People used solar power in history as far back as in the 7th century B.C. Energy from the sun was respected in its most primitive form, and put to use for as long as the man walked the earth.

The first uses of solar power involved absorbing energy from the sun into a magnifying glass to fuel cooking fires. By the 3rd century B.C., Greeks and Romans for religious rituals bounced the sunlight off "burning mirrors" to light sacred torches.

In 1839, the French physicist Edmond Becquerel discovered the photovoltaic effect when working in a conductive solution with a cell made of metal electrodes. He observed that when exposed to light, the cell produced more electricity. Willoughby Smith later discovered in 1873 that selenium could act as a photo-conductor.

Only three years later, William Grylls Adams and Richard Evans Day introduced the photovoltaic theory that Becquerel had developed to selenium in 1876. They reported it was actually able to produce electricity when exposed to light.

Nearly 50 years after the invention of the photovoltaic effect, the first functioning selenium solar cell was developed by American inventor Charles Fritz in 1883.3 While we use silicone in cells for modern solar panels, this solar cell was a significant predecessor to the technologies used today.

In a way, several scientists took a role in the development of solar cells. By uncovering the ability of the photovoltaic effect, Becquerel is credited, and Fritz by actually producing the ancestor for all the solar cells.


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