Canada: Making the most of solar cells!

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As a renewable energy source, the sun's infinite supply of rays is second to none. Solar cells are designed to capture solar energy and transform it into other forms of power such as electricity. Like so many other forms of alternative energy, Canada is taking strides to claim a perch near the top in the solar cell industry.

Solar cells operate via the photovoltaic effect. Voltage is created when electrons are transferred from one material to another. When this transfer occurs, voltage is built up between two electrodes. As photons in sunlight strike solar cells, materials such as silicon absorb them and electrons are freed from the material. This flow of electrons creates electricity. Solar cells perform this task specifically using the sun's radiation. They are grouped together to form the familiar solar panels seen on rooftops and solar farms worldwide.

Due to its abundance of high pressure systems, Canada possesses a good number of sunny days by which to produce electricity via solar cells. Research and development in the country is funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. Additionally, a number of national photovoltaic energy companies have invested in the development of these types of power systems in order to position themselves as a viable force worldwide using this renewable energy. This has been done in conjunction with climate change programs set up by the federal government.

Universities have especially taken the lead in forging the development of solar cells in Canada. The University of Alberta has teamed with the National Research Council's Institute for Nanotechnology to focus on the improvement of plastic solar cell efficiency. Known for its open prairie, Alberta is already noted for its wind power capabilities and is now ready to obtain power from the open sky as well. Silicon, which is the most common element in solar cells, is in short supply and as result is rather expensive. Scientists in Alberta have aimed their attention toward optimizing the output of plastic solar cells to ease cost and increase production. Layers of materials make up the construction of a plastic solar cell in a fashion similar to a sandwich. Scientists at The University of Alberta have already noticed as much as a 30% increase in efficiency over conventional silicon cells in only one layer of the "sandwich".

As Canada continues to make strides in the renewable energy industry of solar cells, the country will continue to seek cheaper and more efficient methods of turning the sun's rays into usable power.

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