I have a friend who recently bought gallium off of Amazon (just for kicks, I have no idea why). I remember seeing that they use a form of gallium to treat photovoltaic solar cells. That got me thinking: how are PV solar cells created? I remember that they are made of a substance like silicon (I do not know exactly what it is) but the descriptions I read about the solar cells were fairly vague. Can anyone give me a more detailed explanation?

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    $\begingroup$ I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because this can be answered with a modicum of effort using a search engine. $\endgroup$
    – Todd Minehardt
    Mar 14 '17 at 13:04
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    $\begingroup$ If you want to fiddle at home on a budget, search for "dye-sensitized solar cell" or "Grätzel cell" / "Graetzel cell", named after Michel Grätzel at the EPFL. There's a ton of instructions out there and probably, some kits are available too. $\endgroup$ Mar 14 '17 at 14:48
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    $\begingroup$ DIY Graetzel cell instructions, for example, under www.nlcpr.com/GratzelSolarCell.pdf and instructables.com/id/… $\endgroup$
    – Buttonwood
    Mar 14 '17 at 15:16

What about a general overview about solar cells, and their principal working principle on wikipedia? NREL is one of the better known, international visible labs working on this, with public information provided here, like the regularly updated chart below:

enter image description here

If you want to dive deeper into this topic, there are even on-line classes about sub-topics in this field, like about the emerging organic solar cells. The topic is too broad, has too many ramifications, to be answered here.

As a side note, inorganic solar cells based on materials like metallic silicon start from highly purified materials. Hence I doubt metals available at Amazon were pure enough to build a PV cell able to compete with commercially available modules.

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    $\begingroup$ Plus gallium by itself is a metal, fairly harmless (but keep it away from aluminum). It is unlikely that one could make something like GaAs (or GaP or GaN or ...) at home without special equipment (or without killing yourself). $\endgroup$
    – Jon Custer
    Mar 14 '17 at 12:54
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    $\begingroup$ @JonCuster I agree. In addition, to prepare the right material in terms of "stitching the atoms together" either statistically at ppm or at stoichiometric level doesn't say too much if it already is the right modification or (like for methylammonium iodide based cells:) the polymorph suitable for the application. Not even to speak about other complications of homo- and heterojunction cells like grain bounderies of the same material or with other materials present, preferrential orientation(s) and degree of crystallinity of the material on the substrate, etc. pp. $\endgroup$
    – Buttonwood
    Mar 14 '17 at 13:13

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