It’s a complicated process, the basic science of which dates back over 150 years! They are made with semiconductors which allow sunlight (a bombardment of photons) to strike a special material which then gives off a flow of electrons (they call it the “Photovoltaic Effect”).
This is from How Stuff Works: “Photovoltaic (PV) cells are made of special materials called semiconductors such as silicon, which is currently the most commonly use.”
I suggest reading up on the science from the first link and also viewing How Stuff Works step by step demonstration on this Amazing (and Much Needed! what w/ climate change and fossil fuels becoming just that — fossils! — and all!) Technology! I really need to read up on them too, because I need to know whether or not the solar cell manufacturing process has to be done in an energy intensive manner or not? I know right now we are trying to manufacture as many solar panels as possible (and looking for people to actually go ahead and buy them, and say for example, deck out their house with solar energy collection panels)… and I wonder what the environmental costs are of producing solar panels the way we do? Sorry I can not be of more help here:
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