How a Solar Cell Works: Photon Simulation

Photovoltaic Module
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Intended Grade Level(s):
Learning Goal(s):

To understand how a solar cell operates on the atomic level, through a simulation experience

Pedagogy & Practice:
NGSS Science and Engineering Practices:
Other Subjects Covered:
Estimated Activity Length:
50 min

The purpose of this activity is to simulate the movement of electrons at the p-n junction to create an electrical current. Students will play a modified game of musical chairs, where teams will compete against each other while creating their own electricity. By participating in the activity, students will be able to “see” how electricity is created in a photovoltaic (PV) cell at the atomic level. In order to understand how electrons are dislodged by the sun’s rays to create electricity, students will simulate electron movement through an electric field to deposit electricity into an external load.

Other Material(s) Used:
1 bowl or bucket • Ping pong balls (10-15), or other similar item • 1die • Table or desk to store potential orbs • Optional: signs for students to wear to identify the P and N side • “Photon Scramble Comprehension/Assessment” student handout