History   Future Technology






First used in 1890, the word photovoltaics has two parts: photo, derived from the Greek word for light, and volt, relating to electricity pioneer Alessandro Volta. The conversion of sunlight into energy by means of solar cells is based on the photoelectric effect discovered by French physicist Edmond Becquerel in 1839.


The first genuine solar cell was built in 1883 by Charles Fritts, who used junctions formed by coating selenium (a semiconductor) with an extremely thin layer of gold. Early solar cells had energy conversion efficiencies of less than one percent. In 1941, the silicon solar cell was invented by Russell Ohl.

Photovoltaics was developed in the 1950s for spacecraft and first 'flew' in space in 1958. It was the only non-nuclear way to produce power for satellites. Your satellite television picture is possible because of photovoltaics.

During the 1970s and 1980s, efforts were made to reduce the costs to a level suitable for use on earth. The growth of the industry has since been dramatic.

Since the early 1980s, the price of the modules (dollars per watt) has fallen as manufacturing volume has increased, and the amount of photovoltaic modules shipped per year has grown.


Over the past five years, photovoltaic module production and use has increased dramatically, largely because of government funding in some countries for grid-connected photovoltaic systems.

To learn more about some major milestones in the historical development of solar energy technologies through a detailed timeline Click Here.



Organic Photovoltaic Films

Organic thin cells offer great potential for the future of solar energy. As the newest generation of solar cells, organic film cells offer many advantages and new possibilities for the growth of solar energy.  These cells are made with reel to reel printing, dramatically reducing the cost of production, in addition to requiring much less silicon.  Additionally, these cells weigh less and are mechanically flexible, allowing them to be utilized in markets requiring portable energy systems.   While current research shows that organic photovoltaic film is only approximately 5% efficient, it is widely believed the efficiency will increase to 10% in the near future.

Applications for organic film cells include:

1)    Disposable solar products

2)    Integration into 'soft' or non-planar packaging

3)    Large, flexible solar panels could be used to make solar tents, solar sails, or portable power modules.