Solar Power Mission to Mars

A solar cell, or photovoltaic cell (PV), is a device that converts light into electric current using the photovoltaic effect. The first solar cell was constructed by Charles Fritts in the 1880s. The German industrialist Ernst Werner von Siemens was among those who recognized the importance of this discovery. In 1931, the German engineer Bruno Lange developed a photo cell using silver selenide in place of copper oxide, although the prototype selenium cells converted less than 1% of incident light into electricity. Following the work of Russell Ohl in the 1940s, researchers Gerald Pearson, Calvin Fuller and Daryl Chapin created the silicon solar cell in 1954. These early solar cells cost US$286/watt and reached efficiencies of 4. 5–6%. In 1957, Mohamed M. Atalla developed the process of silicon surface passivation by thermal oxidation at Bell Labs. The surface passivation process has since been critical to solar cell efficiency.