ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Types of Photovoltaic Cells

Updated on January 13, 2020
Mpfana Manu profile image

Mpfana Manu is a mechatronic engineer who's working in green energy electronics products.

There are several types of photovoltaic cells. All of them are undergoing development to increase their efficiency and reduce the cost of producing them. Here's a list of the types of photovoltaic cells available.

  • Monocrystalline silicon cells
  • Polycrystalline silicon cells
  • Amorphous silicon cells
  • Cadmium Telluride cells
  • Copper Indium Gallium Selenide cells

Now lets go through the list, explaining each type of photovoltaic cell.

Monocrystalline silicon cells

The cell is made of a single continuous crystal lattice without boundaries and with little or no impurities in its molecular structure. These are the most efficient photovoltaic cells when operating in ideal to moderate conditions. The efficiency is about 14.5%.

Because of their relatively high efficiency, they are often employed to generate solar power where there is limited space to install the solar panels. Limited spaces like rooftops, building facades and vehicle bodies are a few examples.

Their biggest disadvantage is their relatively higher cost. The higher prices are mainly caused by the complicated and long process of producing monocrystalline silicon.

Another disadvantage of monocrystalline cells is that their efficiency rapidly drops with rising temperature of the solar panel. Also, the power output is too sensitive to changes in light intensity. This makes the cell less yielding.

If a huge leaf falls and sticks on your panel or if a huge dark cloud hides the sun, the performance of the panel may drop significantly. So panels made of monocrystalline cells are not fit to be directly connected to electrical appliances which need a relatively constant supply of power. Many systems with these cells make use of batteries which can get charged by a variable power supply and then discharge evenly.

Polycrystalline silicon cells

These cells are made from silicon consisting of different kinds of monocrystalline silicon. The molecular structure of its lattice is not continous but has boundaries beween its crystals.

Polycrystalline cells are less efficient compared to monocrystalline cells but they are not super expensive to produce them. Consequently, panels made from these cells are cheaper. However, they share the same temperature coefficient with monocrystalline cells. That means their efficiency also drops with rising temperature.

Amorphous silicon cells

Amorphous silicon is a glassy alloy of silicon and hydrogen. Hydrogen making up 10% of the alloy. The cells are in the form of thin homogeneous layers rather than crystals. This type of silicon is more tolerant to heat compared to crystalline silicon. The temperature coefficient is around 0.3%/°C.

Amorphous silicon absorbs light more effectively than crystalline silicon so cells made from it are thinner. That's why the cells are called thin-film photovoltaic cells. These cells are more yielding, meaning that they produce more solar power per power rating. They are less sensitive to changes in light intensities. This is mainly because amorphous silicon is more effective at absorbing the blue wavelengths of light that dominates during cloudy times. Crystalline cells can't do this.

And the industrial process of making amorphous silicon is relatively cheaper, making the thin-film technology cheap too. The biggest advantage of amorphous silicon comes from the fact that it's made into thin films. This makes them applicable to both rigid and foldable panels. They can also be embedded into thin glass or roof tiles. In China, there are building facades made of glass with these thin-films which are hardly noticeable when you look at the glass.

Though amorphous silicon is more yielding, it's not as efficient as crystalline silicon. The efficiency is about 6%. In an attempt to increase this efficiency, photovoltaic cell manufacturers add layers of polycrystalline silicon to the thin-film. This raises the efficiency to about 9%.

Cadmium Telluride cells

These cells came about through research in thin-film technology. Engineering scientists were looking for a more efficient and less costly alternative to amorphous silicon. That's how cadmium telluride cells emerged. There was a time when they were the cheapest but further development in silicon has put silicon ahead again.

Cadmium telluride cells have greater tolerance to heat compared to crystalline cells. But the efficiency is higher compared to amorphous silicon cells. The efficiency is around 10%. They are mainly used to make solar panels that are mounted on the ground. The kind of panels installed in huge numbers on super huge fields generating gigawatts of solar power.

Copper Indium Gallium Selenide (CIGS) cells

These also are commercialised just like the Cadmium telluride cells. They're super cheap too just like all the other thin-films. These cells take up the biggest proportion of modules that don't use glass. This makes them light-weight and fit for applications where weight is a huge factor. Applications like roof tiles and rooftop installations are a few examples.

CIGS cells have moderate electrical properties. The efficiency is around 12% and the temperature coefficient is around -0.3%/°C.


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)