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How would I grow my own and build functional solar cells? I've read and researched that they're mostly a crystal structure of something like silicon. I would assume I'd be able to grow my own crystals and sandwich this in a process of some sort with a p-type and n-type, etc.

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    $\begingroup$ Do you want to actually get usable power from them, or would you like to just explore the science? If it's the latter, then you may find this tutorial on making dye-sensitized solar cells interesting and relatively accessible (well, at least more so than silicon solar cells!). $\endgroup$ – Nicolau Saker Neto May 30 '13 at 13:40
  • $\begingroup$ This question should be transferred to physics.se $\endgroup$ – Georg May 31 '13 at 21:42
  • $\begingroup$ @NicolauSakerNeto thank you. I'm exploring it as a science and not so much for practical functionality. I'm sure there is a micro-manufacturing-like process that would take special tools in order to make it efficient. As a DIY'er, I'm trying to learn how to do it on my own, though, and would like to make silicon ones. Thanks again. $\endgroup$ – EhevuTov May 31 '13 at 23:09
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    $\begingroup$ @Georg You've been warned about your comments before. I have censored this one, as you may have a point. Please try to be constructive in your comments at all times $\endgroup$ – jonsca Jun 1 '13 at 1:11
  • $\begingroup$ @jonsca I thought about placing this question in physics, but since it is manufacturing and not the logic of solar cells, I thought it best in chemistry, since I would think most of the making is chemical in nature; particularly if I'm growing silicon crystals. $\endgroup$ – EhevuTov Jun 1 '13 at 4:34
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You have to study existed architectures. First, it is necessary to distinguish between photo-conductive and photovoltaic elements. In photovoltaic elements one needs a mechanism of separation of positive and negative charges formed under an irradiation of the semiconductor. Even a simple p-n junction can do this. But, this is all about efficiency. The solar cell has to absorb as much light as possible without reflections, and, at the same time, the charge transport inside should be without losses that is impossible in thick structures. Also we have to care about the absorption spectrum. To absorb in all spectrum of the solar radiation, people make cascade structures with different materials absorbing in different ranges of spectrum.

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Making pure silicon is somewhat like making aluminum, you heat SiO2 (sand, or more specifically, quartz) to a liquid state and hydrolyze with two carbon electrodes. One electrode combines the oxygen with the carbon in the electrode, releasing CO2, the silicon and other impurities remain behind. When this cools, you have foundry grade silicon, used mostly as a steel additive. Since this involves extremely high temperatures it's unlikely you'll be doing this in your garage (although it is, literally, possible). As an alternative, some 'thin film' panels are printed, usually on a plastic backing, you would have to find the printer and the proprietary ink. Once you had bought a $100,000 printer and very expensive 'ink', you're ready to roll.

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