They are becoming more popular every day, but when were solar panels invented? The first to discover the voltaic effect was French physicist Alexandre Edmond Becquerel, in 1839. The first photovoltaic cell was created in 1883 by scientist Charles Fritts.
When were solar panels invented?
Although solar cell technology was invented in 1833, it was only 200 years later that scientist Russel Shoemaker Ohl built the first solar panel, in 1958.
Ohl was the creator of the first silicon plate, the semiconductor material responsible for creating an electric current between solar cells. But, like every great invention of mankind, he was not alone.
Russell Ohl had the help of his fellow scientists at Bell Labs: Cavin Fuller, Gerald Person and Daryl Chapin.
Fuller was a chemist and it was he who developed the process of doping silicon. This process is necessary because, although it has a metallic appearance, it is not actually a metal.
Because of this, the electrons in silicon are involved in covalent bonds, which prevent the electrons from moving between the atoms – and this step is crucial for the emergence of an electric current.
However, it is possible to change this behavior of silicon by doping, in which a small amount of impurities are mixed into a silicon crystal.
At this same time, Chapin was looking for an alternative energy source for batteries used in remote telephone networks. It was then that they got in touch with Ohl and used this technology as a power source for a telephone network in Georgia.
The history of photovoltaic solar energy
Every great invention depends on various processes and research to become reality. Even more study is needed to bring practical applicability to these discoveries.
Below, you can check a bit about the history of how solar panels were invented and all their evolution until the modern era.
Discovery of the photovoltaic effect (1839)
The discovery of this new technology was the result of the research of French physicist Alexandre Edmond Becquerel. At that time, using solar energy as a source of electricity was not dreamed of – not least because the demand for energy was much lower and no one had any idea about renewable and non-renewable energy sources.
First photovoltaic cell invented (1883)
The scientist Charles Fritts, created the first photovoltaic cell made of gold-coated selenium. The discovery of this New York researcher enabled the creation of a direct current for electrical conversion.
Interestingly, at this time the efficiency of this solar cell was 1% (i.e. only 1% of the current was converted into electrical energy). After the help of the team of scientists at Bell Laboartories, the efficiency became 6%. Today, solar panels are 20% efficient.
Discovery of the photoelectric effect (1905)
Let’s hear it for one of the world’s greatest scientists, Albert Einstein. In 1905 Einstein refined the concepts explored until then, mainly by physicist Heinrich Herts in 1887.
The German scientist’s new experiments pointed to an emission of electrons from a surface in interaction with an electromagnetic wave, forming the photoelectric effect.
Nobel Prize to Einstein for the discovery of the photoelectric effect (1922)
Einstein’s hypothesis was that a beam of light was not only a continuous wave traveling through space, but also a form of energy generation. His discovery made possible the creation of the solar panels we use today, and for this major scientific breakthrough Einstein was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics.
Theory of the photovoltaic effect (1930)
This theory of the photovoltaic effect was instituted by Schottky. A few years later, he discovered the first practical mono-silicon photovoltaic cell. With this, the recognition of his theory made it possible to use solar panels in space in 1958.
The silicon doping process (1954)
In 1954, chemist Calvin Fuller of Bell Laboratories in the United States devised the silicon doping process, which gave birth to the modern era of solar energy history.
Creation of the modern solar cell (1954)
As we know, the effect was discovered in 1839, but solar energy was studied for many years until it was applied to develop its cells, such as the one carried out by scientist Russell Shoemaker Ohl in 1954. This new project was called as the modern solar cell.
Beginning of the uses of solar panels (1958)
The beginning of the uses of solar panels occurred in a surprising way. In 1958, a 1 W panel was attached to the Vanguard I satellite, which was sent into space, to power its radio on the trip.
From this, the first photovoltaic systems were implemented for homes, businesses, and even for means of transport such as buses, ships, and airplanes.
Creation of the first amorphous silicon cell (1976)
In 1976, engineers David Carlson and Christopher Wronski of RCA Laboratories created the first amorphous silicon cell, which has an efficiency of 1.1%.
Creation of the thin-film cell (1992)
In the year 1992, at the University of South Florida, a thin-film cell was developed, which contains 15.89% efficiency.
Solar cell that exceeds a 30% efficiency (1994)
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) created the first cell that concentrates 180 suns of GaInP/GaAs, or indium gallium phosphide/arsenide, making it the first solar cell that exceeded conversion efficiency by 30 percent.
Total photovoltaic capacity installed worldwide reaches 1,000 megawatts (1999)
Worldwide, the total photovoltaic installation capacity reached 1,000 megawatts (MW) in 1999.
Use of grid-connected photovoltaic systems (2000)
In the year 2000, grid-connected (on-grid) photovoltaic systems were set up in most First World countries in order to supply power to the conventional electric grid. Since their implementation, the annual worldwide production has risen to 4,200 MWp of photovoltaic cells.
New record by obtaining a solar cell with 40% efficiency (2006)
For the first time, the use of polysilicon solar cells catches up with the rest of photovoltaic technologies in 2006.
Growth of solar factories in China, reducing manufacturing costs (2011)
In 2011, Chinese solar factories expanded rapidly, making manufacturing costs more affordable, with less than $1.25 per watt for each silicon PV module produced. As a result, installations have grown worldwide and it became possible to have solar panels for home.