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Photovoltaics: A Diverse Technology

Jamie Kurtz, U.S. Department of Energy/Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy

This video reviews how photovoltaic (PV) cells work, noting that technological innovations are decreasing costs and allowing PV use to expand.

Video length: 4:26 min.

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

ngssSee how this Video supports the Next Generation Science Standards»
Middle School: 1 Disciplinary Core Idea, 2 Cross Cutting Concepts
High School: 3 Disciplinary Core Ideas, 2 Cross Cutting Concepts

Notes From Our Reviewers The CLEAN collection is hand-picked and rigorously reviewed for scientific accuracy and classroom effectiveness. Read what our review team had to say about this resource below or learn more about how CLEAN reviews teaching materials
Teaching Tips | Science | Pedagogy | Technical Details

Teaching Tips

  • Use video to help students understand the science engineering and technology behind Photovoltaic (PV) energy generation.
  • The teacher should spend a bit of time discussing the concepts of band gap, electron hole pair, semiconductor materials, electromagnetic spectrum, and efficiency.

About the Science

  • Innovations, from using materials that lower manufacturing costs to expanding application and use, are driving the photovoltaic (PV) industry forward.
  • A brief PV history demonstrates the materials innovation and evolution from high cost silicon to less expensive multi-silicon and thin film.
  • Comments from expert scientist: The information is in the activity is strong and is not likely to be dated in the near future. The video provides a good overview of photovoltaics, but also delves into more scientific detail than similar programs.

About the Pedagogy

  • This video demonstrates how science, technology, and engineering are working together to innovate PV electricity generation.
  • Good resource for student research especially in conjunction with the other resources at https://www.eeremultimedia.energy.gov/solar/

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Excellent video and audio quality.
  • The video is closed captioned.

Next Generation Science Standards See how this Video supports:

Middle School

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 1

MS-PS3.A4:The term “heat” as used in everyday language refers both to thermal energy (the motion of atoms or molecules within a substance) and the transfer of that thermal energy from one object to another. In science, heat is used only for this second meaning; it refers to the energy transferred due to the temperature difference between two objects.

Cross Cutting Concepts: 2

Energy and Matter

MS-C5.3:Energy may take different forms (e.g. energy in fields, thermal energy, energy of motion).

MS-C5.4:The transfer of energy can be tracked as energy flows through a designed or natural system.

High School

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 3

HS-PS3.D3:Solar cells are human-made devices that likewise capture the sun’s energy and produce electrical energy.

HS-PS4.B1:Electromagnetic radiation (e.g., radio, microwaves, light) can be modeled as a wave of changing electric and magnetic fields or as particles called photons. The wave model is useful for explaining many features of electromagnetic radiation, and the particle model explains other features.

HS-PS4.B3:Photoelectric materials emit electrons when they absorb light of a high-enough frequency

Cross Cutting Concepts: 2

Energy and Matter

HS-C5.2:Changes of energy and matter in a system can be described in terms of energy and matter flows into, out of, and within that system.

HS-C5.3:Energy cannot be created or destroyed—only moves between one place and another place, between objects and/or fields, or between systems.

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