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Saturday, January 18, 2014

The abbreviated timeline of the solar panel

In 1986 the Whitehouse removed its solar panels
Photovoltaic experiments marked the dawn of solar panels
By Lindsey Patterson

The oldest form of energy that humanity has been able to harness is the sun. Even before our ancestors decided to try walking upright and using tools, the sun's energy has shown down on the surface of the world and provided the necessary power to keep life going on planet earth. However, it was only within the past century and a half that humanity began to learn how to take this abundant, free energy source and convert it into something more widely usable. To do that, we first needed to figure out the technology necessary to turn sunbeams into electricity. Here's a brief timeline of the history of the solar panel.
  • 1839. The photovoltaic effect, in which certain materials cause excited electrons to jump between two two plates when exposed to sunlight, was observed by Alexandre Edmond Becquerel. He first noted it at the age of 19, when he used silver chloride in an acidic solution which was attached to platinum electrodes and then expose to light. The process resulted in the creation of a small electrical current.
  • 1877. Solidified selenium was shown to be capable of the photovoltaic effect, leading to the possibility of solid solar cells.
  • 1883. World's first solar cell was created from selenium and and a thin layer of gold. The cell was capable of producing less than 1% efficiency.
  • 1887. Discoveries surrounding the photovoltaic effect lead Heinrich Hertz to investigate the photoconductivity of U.V. light, thus leading to the discovery of the photoelectric effect. The photoelectric effect causes electrons to be ejected from certain materials when exposed to sunlight.
  • 1888. Edward Weston received two patents on solar cell designs. In the years that followed, several other designs were patented by others.
  • 1905. Celebrated physicist Albert Einstein wrote a paper on the photoelectric effect that would eventually win him a nobel prize.
  • 1914. New methods for increasing the efficiency of solar cells were pioneered by Sven Ason Berglund.
  • 1918. A process used to grow single crystals of metal was discovered by Jan Czochralski.
  • 1920s. Solar power began to see commercial use, as solar water heaters using flat-plate collectors began to be used in certain apartment buildings.
  • 1948. Single cells of silicon were grown using a variation on the method used by Czochralski. These silicon cells would eventually revolutionize electronics and solar cell development.
  • 1954. The first modern silicon solar cell was invented and shown at the National Academy of Science Meeting.
  • 1955. The first commercially available solar cells were released by Western Electric. These cells were only about 2% efficient.
  • 1957. An 8% efficient solar cell was created by Hoffman Electronics, followed a year later by an 9% efficient cell, and then a 10% efficient cell.
  • 1958. Solar power was adapted for use on satellites, and Vanguard I, the first solar powered satellite, was launched. It has remained in orbit for over half a century, and has circled the earth nearly 200,000 thousand times.
  • 1961. The United Nations held a "Solar Energy in the Developing World" conference in an effort to find solar solutions to energy problems.
  • 1968. The first solar powered wrist watch was introduced.
  • 1977. Solar panels were installed on the roof of the white house, and President Carter began to promote solar energy incentives.
  • 1978. Handheld calculators with miniature photovoltaic panels were released, allowing the device to be used battery-free.
  • 1985. Cells with an efficiency of 20% were created by the Centre for Photovoltaic Engineering.
  • 1986. The Whitehouse solar panels were removed.
  • 1989. Reflective solar concentrators, which allow more energy to be produced by a single cell, were invented.
  • 1992. A thin-film cell that is nearly 16% efficient was developed at the University of South Florida.
  • 1994. The first cell to exceed 30% efficiency was created by NREL.
  • 2000s. Solar panels became more and more commercially available, often being used in conjunction with advanced smart home technology.
  • 2006. A solar cell that was more than 40% efficient was developed.
  • 2011. The Fukushima Nuclear disaster galvanized the world into rethinking dependency on nuclear power. Germany became a world leader in renewable energy use, able to power 50% of the country through solar power.
  • 2013. New solar panels were installed on the White house.

About the authorLindsey Patterson is a freelance writer who specializes in technology and the latest social trends, specifically involving social media.

Image license: USAF, US-PDGov

1 comment:

  1. Loved the article for its details. May start thinking about Solar because of your article.... commercials