Vernier Software and Technology
Vernier Software & Technology

Solar Cells


Energy produced by nuclear reactions on the sun is called solar energy. Solar energy travels to Earth in the form of light. Solar cells, also called photovoltaic (PV) cells, change the light energy to electrical energy that can be used to power devices, such as calculators, cars, homes, or satellites. A solar cell is made of a semiconducting material such as silicon. When light strikes the cell, it provides enough energy to move electrons through the cell producing an electric current. A single solar cell puts out a very small current when struck by light. Wiring large numbers of solar cells together will produce higher currents. The amount of light that falls on the Earth is enormous, but not all light actually reaches the surface. About a third is reflected back into space and some is absorbed by the atmosphere. You can calculate the power produced by a solar cell by measuring its voltage. In this activity, you will use a Differential Voltage Probe to compare the voltages produced by a single solar cell and by two solar cells wired together. Then you will calculate the power output from each cell combination.


In this experiment, you will

  • Use a Voltage Probe and NXT to measure voltage from a solar cell.
  • Wire a series circuit.
  • Calculate power output.
  • Compare multiple solar cells.

Sensors and Equipment

This project/activity features the following Vernier sensors and equipment.

Additional Requirements

You will also need NXT Sensor Adapter and a LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT robotics system.

Standards Correlations

See all standards correlations for STEM 2 with Vernier and LEGO® MINDSTORMS® NXT »

STEM 2 with Vernier and LEGO® MINDSTORMS® NXT

See other experiments from the lab book.

2First-Class Levers
3Audio Assistant
6String Tension Tester
7Gas Pressure
8Yeast in Action
9Grip Strength
10Cartesian Diver
12Lemon Battery
13Battery Tester
14Solar Cells
15Solar Tracker
16Mapping a Magnetic Field
18Migrating Robot
19Magnet Finder
20Mine Sweeper

Project/activity 14 from STEM 2 with Vernier and LEGO® MINDSTORMS® NXT Lab Book

<em>STEM 2 with Vernier and LEGO<sup>®</sup> MINDSTORMS<sup>®</sup> NXT</em> book cover

Included in the Lab Book

Vernier lab books include word-processing files of the student instructions, essential teacher information, suggested answers, sample data and graphs, and more.

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