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Solar Cell Investigation.

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GCSE Physics Coursework: Solar Cell Investigation



I am trying to find out how the current changes with the area of the solar cells.

Scientific Knowledge/Research


The energy in light can be transformed into electricity when shone onto semiconductor materials. Silicon and germanium normally have electrons in low energy states. Absorption of light excites these electrons into higher states and generates a voltage (typically 0.5 V per cell). As more light is absorbed, more electrons are excited and the current supplied increases. Typically many cells are connected in series and parallel to give higher

voltages and currents.


Typical solar cells include a glass cover to keep the weather out, an anti-reflective coating to prevent sunlight from bouncing off, and electrical contacts, or metal grids that collect photons from the semiconductor and transfer them to an electrical circuit. In a PV cell, a semiconductor composed of a thin layer of silicon crystal absorbs photons, or particles of solar energy. The energy of the protons transfer to electrons in the semiconductor. The energized electrons then break free for the silicon atoms and transfer them to an electric circuit

If we completely cover the top of a solar panel then, then photons cannot get through the conductor, and the current is lost. Internal Resistance (called series resistance) if

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This is how my table should look like:-

Percentage Uncovered

Current Milliamps (mA)

Reading 1

Reading 2

Reading 3







Fair testing

In this experiment I will only change 1 factor, which is the length of the paper; I would have to change the card placements at the same measurements every time. I will change the length of the card each time from 100%, 75%, 50% and 25%.

The following factors that are going to be kept constant are:

  1. The distance from the lamp to the solar panel – if this is changed it will affect the light intensity on the solar panel for each reading and the experiment would be unfair.
  2.  The positioning of the lamp – if this is changed, the light intensity on the solar panel would also change therefore making the test unfair. Also the lamps must point at the solar panel only.
  3. The time – this, would have to be accurate i.e. not leave the solar panel under the lamp for too long or it could affect the temperature from the bulb.
  4. The Bulb – if the watt of the bulb is changed, the temperature on the solar cell would also change therefore making the test unfair.


Although this experiment is not very dangerous I still need to be cautious. I have to check if there are any breakages in

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I believe that my results, in general, were reasonably accurate. I know that because I used a milliamp meter which was digitally calculated, instead of an analogue one. My results on the graph lied on a straight line until 50% then after that it had two slight anomalies (circled in red).


I believe that this happened because of the temperature from the bulb. The crocodile clips were not always fixed securely to the wire with a good connection. This also meant that they were easy to move about on the wire, changing the length of it.  

I could have improved my investigation to support my analysis by doing other experiments such as the following:

  • The distance from the lamp to the solar cell:

I believe that as the distance between the lamp and solar cell is increased, the resistance would decrease. This is because the temperature would not affect the experiment as much.

  • The area uncovered:

I think the more uncovered the more resistance there would be due to internal resistance.

  • Use a clamp and stand holding a bulb than a lamp for accuracy of the angle the light source is at.

To carry this experiment on further, the tests could be done more times to see if the averages are still the same, to see if there is a change in results if the room is completely dark i.e. so no natural light can interfere with the tests, using a more stronger or sensitive solar panel to pick up the light.

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