a device that converts the energy of optical radiation into electric energy by means of the internal photoelectric effect in semiconductors. The energy converted may be the energy of solar radiation (seeSOLAR BATTERY), the energy of infrared radiation from hot bodies, or the energy of laser radiation in any wavelength range.
A photovoltaic converter is usually a flat panel composed of individual photovoltaic cells in which the semiconductor thickness does not exceed 0.2–0.3 mm. The conversion efficiency of lot-produced photovoltaic converters is 10–12 percent; the efficiency of the best models is 15–18 percent. Photovoltaic converters can convert radiant energy of ultrahigh flux density, that is, radiant energy with a flux density as high as several kilowatts per square centimeter. The individual photovoltaic cells may be interconnected in series or in parallel. Series-connected cells generate small currents at high voltages of up to several kilovolts; parallel-connected cells generate large currents of up to several hundred amperes at low voltages.
The advantages of photovoltaic converters are portability, a practically unlimited service life and shelf life, the absence of moving parts, simplicity of maintenance, and the absence of environmentally harmful emissions. Their disadvantage is their relatively high cost.
Photovoltaic converters are used as self-contained power sources for equipment in space vehicles, for radio receivers and transmitter-receivers, for lighthouses and aids to navigation, and for anticorrosion protection equipment in petroleum and gas pipelines. Plans have been developed for the building of solar electric power plants based on photovoltaic converters and solar concentrators.
REFERENCESVasil’ev, A. M., and A. P. Landsman. Poluprovodnikovye fotopreobrazovateli. Moscow, 1971.
M. M. KOLTUN