Applications for solar cells are varied, but often involve instances where normal power sources are not available, for example in space probes. More prosaically, they are also used in calculators and wrist watches.
When used in combination - solar modules, or photovoltaic arrays - they can help provide alternative power sources in combination with the electricity grid.
Solar Cell history
The photovoltaic effect was first discovered by Edmond Becquerel in 1839, and the likes of Albert Einstein continued his work. In 1921 Einstein was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics "for his services to Theoretical Physics, and especially for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect".
The first silicon p-n junction (a combination of N-type and P-type semiconductors) solar cell was made at Bell Labs in 1954, with solar cells first being used to power satellites, such as the Vanguard I, in 1958.
In the following, we bring together resources from Electronics Weekly and UK and EU governmental bodies to provide detailed reference information about solar cells.