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The Evolution of Solar Panel Technology: From Early Innovations to Modern Efficiency



The Evolution of Solar Panel Technology: From Early Innovations to Modern Efficiency

Today, the technology of converting sunlight into electricity is used in many areas of life and is even integrated into innovative developments. Scientists managed to achieve such results in more than one day.

Few people think about it, but the history of modern solar systems began many years ago. First, scientists discovered the photo effect – a reaction that is the basis of the structure’s functioning. This was the first step to many years of research, experimentation, and improvement of the technology. So, how did everything happen, when were solar panels invented, and at what stage of development is the solar industry? The answers you can find below.

Where Did the Development of Solar Technologies Begin?

Designs that generate electricity from solar radiation are now widely available. It is enough just to find “solar companies near me” on the Internet and choose the best technology for yourself. Under such conditions, it is hard to imagine that even 2 decades ago it was not so easy to buy structures, and their cost was much higher. If you delve deeper into the history of solar energy, you can learn about the discovery that laid the foundation for the green energy industry evolution and the development of energy-efficient solutions.

It was made by the famous physicist Alexander Edmond Becquerel. Back in 1839, he was able to find confirmation of the photoelectric effect. The scientist determined that when sunlight hits the electrode (it was placed in a special solution), electrons are released, which create an electric current. This phenomenon was called the “photoelectric effect”. It became the impetus for further study and improvement of the technology.

Considering this fact, most researchers consider Becquerel to be the founder of the field. However, there is currently a lot of debate about who invented solar panels. Some experts believe that the discovery of the technology was carried out by a French scientist. Other scientists believe that it is worth giving importance to the first structure, which became the prototype of modern solar systems. It was created in 1954.

Outstanding specialists from the Bell Labs laboratory worked on the development and were able to find a relatively stable and stable solution. The design was a real breakthrough in the industry, as it could provide power for devices for several hours. Its efficiency was 4%, which was a record at that time. Researchers and engineers must have been working on such an invention for more than one year.

In the period between the invention of the photoelectric effect and the creation of the first silicon element, several more important steps in this direction were made. In 1873, through experiments, the photoconductive properties of selenium were discovered, after which some scientists tried to create structures based on it. In particular, such an idea came from Charles Fritts, who was able to make solar cells from selenium. However, this material did not provide the desired result, so silicon appeared in solar energy history.

At What Stage of Development Is the Solar Industry Now?

To understand how much better modern solar panels are, it is enough to compare the efficiency indicators. If in the prototypes this indicator was at the level of 4%, then the productivity of the structures presented on the market varies from 15% to 50%. This is official data that is confirmed by NREL research.

Considering this fact, one can understand how far scientists have advanced in their achievements. They were able to create efficient monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar systems for widespread use. However, scientists and engineers do not stop there. The field of solar technologies is constantly improving, and specialists offer new developments.

Solar Devices for Generating Electricity at Night

This discovery forced a change in the view of the traditional use of solar panels. After all, for a long time, the production of electricity at night was one of the problems of solar energy. The situation changed after a team of Australian scientists successfully tested an innovative technology. The basis of this development was the thermal emitting diode.

The principle of operation of this device is similar to the use of glasses intended for night vision. They consist of elements that capture infrared light. A similar scheme is used in the equipment of scientists from Australia. In this way, mankind got not only an opportunity to increase the amount of solar electricity generation but also a new approach to energy consumption. Devices with a thermal emitting diode laid the foundation for the maximum use of the potential of solar energy.

Printed Solar Cells

Another step towards improving the solar industry was the invention of thin solar cells. The main feature of the development is that it can be printed on plastic sheets. The base is extremely thin – its thickness does not exceed 0.5 mm. This property makes solar cells so flexible that they can be easily twisted.

In addition to flexibility, printed varieties have several other important advantages. They can withstand the mechanical impact of even a large force (for example, a car collision), and they also do not lose their functions after being in the water. Thanks to this, innovative solar cells can be placed almost anywhere. This applies even to those areas where it is impossible to install conventional solar panels.

Solar Panels Based on Perovskite

For the first time, this material was used for the production of solar panels about 14 years ago. This was since the level of productivity of crystals is 5 times higher than that of silicon. The first constructions made of this material had several serious disadvantages: short service life and fragility. However, after some time these defects were eliminated.

This was done by scientists from Princeton University. They were able to improve the technology and presented the world with the first perovskite solar cells capable of functioning for a long time. This event marked the transition to a new stage in the development of the solar industry. After all, now the efficiency of solar electricity production can be increased without adding new solar cells to the system.

Solar Cells With Sun Tracking Function

These technologies have become another step towards increasing the productivity of solar panels. The idea belongs to researchers from the University of New South Wales. A team of scientists was able to create special elements capable of tracking the intensity of solar radiation – solar trackers. Thanks to this, structures can capture almost twice as much solar radiation.


Solar energy is undoubtedly one of the most progressive industries that lay the foundation for sustainable environmental development. During its existence, specialists were able to significantly improve it and bring electricity production to a new level. However, this is not the limit of possibilities. Researchers and engineers continue to actively work on the creation of new and improved technologies that would increase the capacity of solar electricity generation.