First Solar Battery

Date taken: April 25, 1954
Location: New York City, New York, USA

Source: AT&T Labs - Innovation - Technology Timeline - The Solar Cell

Historical Context

In 1954 scientists at Bell Laboratories unveiled the first modern solar cell, using a silicon semiconductor to convert light into electricity.

In the early 1950s R.S. Ohl had discovered that sunlight striking a wafer of silicon would produce unexpectedly large numbers of free electrons.

In 1954, G.L. Pearson, C.S. Fuller, and D.M. Chapin created an array of several strips of silicon (each about the size of a razor blade), placed them in sunlight, captured the free electrons and turned them into electrical current.

This was the first solar battery. It converted only 6% of the sunlight into useful energy, many wondered what it was good for.

Today, solar cells in calculators, highway emergency phones, and satellites can convert over 25% of the sunlight that hits them into useful energy.

Historical Events

  • 1954-04-25 Bell labs announces the 1st solar battery made from silicon. It has about 6% efficiency.

Historical Photos