How does a solar cell work? (like in a solar powered calculator)
Solar panels are comprised of several individual solar cells. These solar cells function similarly to large semiconductors and utilize a large-area p-n junction diode. When the solar cells are exposed to sunlight, the p-n junction diodes convert the energy from sunlight into usable electrical energy. The energy generated from photons striking the surface of the solar panel allows electrons to be knocked out of their orbits and released, and electric fields in the solar cells pull these free electrons in a directional current, from which metal contacts in the solar cell can generate electricity. The more solar cells in a solar panel and the higher the quality of the solar cells, the more total electrical output the solar panel can produce. The conversion of sunlight to usable electrical energy has been dubbed the Photovoltaic Effect.
The solar cells that you see on calculators and satellites are also called photovoltaic (PV) cells, which as the name implies (photo meaning "light" and voltaic meaning "electricity"), convert sunlight directly into electricity. A module is a group of cells connected electrically and packaged into a frame (more commonly known as a solar panel), which can then be grouped into larger solar arrays, like the one operating at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada.