Timeline: The Evolution of the Photovoltaic Cell

How solar photocell technologies have advanced during the past 40 years

6 January 2017

In celebration of its 40th anniversary year, The Institute is presenting a series highlighting technologies that have moved forward significantly during the past four decades. This is the first in the series.

In recognition of the work being done by the IEEE Smart Village program, we consider the development of the photovoltaic (PV) cell during the past four decades. It was in 1948 that Gordon K. Teal and IEEE Fellow John Little adapted the Czochralski method of crystal growth to produce single-crystal germanium and, later, silicon. Teal received the 1968 IEEE Medal of Honor for his contributions to single-crystal germanium and silicon technology and the single-crystal grown-junction transistor.

A priority initiative of the IEEE Foundation, IEEE Smart Village helps entrepreneurs set up microutilities that use renewable approaches, like solar panels, for electric power. Smart Village originated as a project to help Haiti after its devastating earthquake in 2010. A team of IEEE Power & Energy Society volunteers as well as industry professionals designed and developed six SunBlazer mobile generators. They were delivered in 2011 to Grand Goave, a community of nearly 50,000 people in southern Haiti that was nearly destroyed by the earthquake.

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