# Lesson and Lab Activity with Photovoltaic Cells

Contributor
Cornell Center for Materials Research/Dan Delorme
Type Category
Assessment Materials Instructional Materials
Types
Informative Text , Experiment/Lab Activity
Note
This resource, vetted by NSTA curators, is provided to teachers along with suggested modifications to make it more in line with the vision of the NGSS. While not considered to be “fully aligned,” the resources and expert recommendations provide teachers with concrete examples and expert guidance using the EQuIP rubric to adapted existing resources. Read more here.

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## Description

This resource provides background information about semiconductors and photovoltaic cells. Then it has three parts to the lab activity: (1) solar cell(s) and small electric fan, (2) Lifting small masses with an electric motor, and (3) Powering a light bulb. The first activity, solar cell(s) and small electric fan, simply requires the students to create an electric circuit of their design that incorporates at least one solar cell. The students are to measure the current and voltage of the array and compare them to the manufacturer values. The second activity, lifting small masses with an electric motor, again requires the students to design their own circuit containing at least one solar cell, but this time they also need to power an electric motor using the solar array. Their creation must lift a mass 0.5 m. They need to calculate the power of the solar array as it lifts the mass, determine the change in gravitation potential energy of the mass, and also calculate the efficiency of the motor. The third and final lab activity, powering a light bulb, requires the students to construct their own circuit with a solar array so they can power a light bulb and have it shine with various amounts of intensity. The students are to compare the power of the solar cell and the light bulb.

Intended Audience

Learner
Educational Level
Language
English
Access Restrictions

Free access - The right to view and/or download material without financial, registration, or excessive advertising barriers.

#### Performance Expectations

HS-PS3-3 Design, build, and refine a device that works within given constraints to convert one form of energy into another form of energy.

Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on both qualitative and quantitative evaluations of devices. Examples of devices could include Rube Goldberg devices, wind turbines, solar cells, solar ovens, and generators. Examples of constraints could include use of renewable energy forms and efficiency.

Assessment Boundary: Assessment for quantitative evaluations is limited to total output for a given input. Assessment is limited to devices constructed with materials provided to students.

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this performance expectation.

To fully address and meet the PE, this activity needs to require the students to refine or modify their circuits so as to improve efficiency and/or power output.

#### Science and Engineering Practices

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this science and engineering practice, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

While the students have not developed the model of gravitational potential energy, they can use it to calculate the change in gravitational potential energy that results from the electric motor lifting a mass. The instructor will have to teach this concept at this point if it hasn't already been covered in the course. Furthermore, the instructor may need to discuss models with their class.

#### Disciplinary Core Ideas

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

This activity clearly shows solar energy being converted into electrical energy as the solar array powers a fan, a motor, and a light bulb. Furthermore, the activity also clearly demonstrates electrical energy being converted into mechanical energy as the motor is used to lift a mass. This mechanical energy results in a change in the Gravitational Potential Energy. Underlying the DCI is the implicit understanding that solar radiation travels from the sun to earth. These ideas could be extended to help the students understand the Law of Conservation of Energy. To fully address the DCI, the teacher should provide instruction on how light is created in a star, how it travels through space to the earth, how it is converted into electrical energy via the photoelectric effect, and how electrical energy powers a motor to lift a mass. Instruction about the Conservation of Energy should be provided to tie all of these concepts together and directly relate them to the DCI.

#### Crosscutting Concepts

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this crosscutting concept, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.