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Photovoltaic Effect of Coppercuprous Oxide Solar

A. P. A. Moneva, G. M. O. Quiachon
Dept. of Mining, Metallurgical and Materials Engineering
University of the Philippines Diliman
Quezon City, Philippines
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A semiconductor is usually a solid chemical element or
compound, that can conduct electricity under some conditions,
making it an excellent medium for controlling the electrical
current. Its resistance decreases as temperature increases, while
its conductance varies depending on the current or voltage
applied, or on the intensity of irradiation. However, intrinsic
semiconductors need to undergone the process of adding
controlled impurities to a semiconductor which is known as
doping. By adding impurities into their crystal lattice, the
electrical conductivity can then be varied by factors of
A p-n junction is an interface between two types of
semiconductor; p-type and n-type. These junctions are formed
by joining n-type and p-type semiconductor materials into a
single crystal. Since the p-type has a high hole concentration,
while the n-type region has a high electron concentration,
electrons diffuse from the n-type side to the p-type side and
holes diffuse from p-type side to the n-type. At some point, this
gradient between holes and electrons disappears, producing a
region depleted of any moving charges, known as the depletion
zone. This junction therefore acts like a barrier, preventing
current across the region.
Copper can form several oxides. However, the one that
shows semiconductive and photovoltaic properties is the Cu 2O.
It was found that Cu2O exhibits a direct band gap of 2.0-2.2eV,
and shows a p-type semiconductor behavior making it suitable
for photovoltaic conversion.
The photovoltaic effect is a physical process through which
a solar cell converts sunlight into electricity. Sunlight is
composed of photons, and these photons contain various
amounts of energy. When a photon is absorbed by the solar
cell, the energy of the photon is transferred to an electron in the

semiconductor. This energy then accelerates the electrons;

diffusing to another junction. Thus generating an electromotive
force, converting some of the light energy into electric energy.
Photovoltaic cells (PV) are also used in cathodic protection.
Metallic structures exposed to soils and water naturally
experience corrosion due to electrolytic action. Metals lose
ions when exposed to an electrolyte thus producing this
corrosion. A low DC voltage may be applied that will prevent
the ion loss from the meta. PV systems are capable of
producing the low voltage DC power directly, resulting in a
more efficient energy usage.
Aside from a photovoltaic cell, other devices can harvest
energy to produce electricity. An example of this is the
piezoelectric p-n junction, where kinetic energy is converted to
electrical energy.
The copper sheet was cut into 2x3 inch strips. Two strips
were used for each concentration of salt in water. Both surfaces
of the copper strips were grinded with fine sandpaper to
remove unwanted oxide layers that may have formed on the
surface. The strips were washed with deionized water then
ethanol, and were dried with Kimwipes. One sheet was then
allowed to sit on a hot plate set at a high temperature until a
black layer (cupric oxide) forms on the surface of the copper.
The copper strip was then removed from the hotplate and the
black layer was allowed to flake out revealing a cuprous oxide
For the photovoltaic cell, 2 grams of salt was dissolved in
200 mL of distilled water in a beaker. This will serve as our
salt-bridge where the free electrons will pass through. The
copper strips were submerged halfway in the beaker. The
copper strips should not touch. The positive terminal of the
meter was connected to the clean copper strip, while the
negative terminal of the meter was connected to the oxidecoated strip.
The set-up was then placed in an enclosed box with an
incandescent bulb inside. The readings from the meter was
observed as the intensity of light from the bulb varies. Then,
the PV cell set-up was taken outside under direct sunlight and
the readings from the meter was observed. An increase in the
current reading must be seen to determine if the PV cell is

Moneva, A. P. A., Quiachon, G. M. O. (2016)

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After allowing the PV cell to sit under both sources of
light, the readings from the meter were recorded below:


Light Source

-67 mA

143 mA

It can be seen that the current produce with the

incandescent bulb is negative, suggesting an opposite
direction of the movement of electron. Even though both the
incandescent and sunlight both have the spectrum that PV
converts to electricity, the amount of solar energy the sun can
produce is much higher compared to that of the
A photovoltaic cell can be characterized by its efficiency
to produce power output of the cell. The voltage and current
can be improved by adjusting some parameters. The
temperature can be lowered to increase the efficiency of the
cell. Also, varying the amount of salt to acquire the optimum
voltage and current reading.


[1] W. Palz, Power for the World - The Emergence of Electricity

from the Sun. Belgium: Pan Stanford Publishing, 2010.
[2] K. Akimoto; S. Ishizuka; M. Yanagita; Y. Nawa; G. K. Paul &
T. Sakurai, Thin Film Deposition of Cu2O and Application for
Solar Cells. Solar Energy, Vol. 80, No.6, June 2006.
[3] R. N. Briskman, A Study of Electrodeposited Cuprous Oxide
Photovoltaic Cells. Solar Energy Materials and Solar Cells,
Vol.27, No.4, 1992.
[4] J. R. Hook; H. E. Hall, Solid State Physics. John Wiley &
Sons, 2001.
[5] E. Fortin & D. Masson, Photovoltaic Effects in Cu2O-Cu
Solar Cells Grown by Anodic Oxidation. Solid-State
Electronics, Vol.25, No.4, 1982.

It was observed that copper oxides, especially the
semiconductor, cuprous oxide (Cu2O) film can be used as a
PV cell component due to its band gap energy and its
photovoltaic effect for the advancement of solar cell

Moneva, A. P. A., Quiachon, G. M. O. (2016)

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