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what is the difference between photovoltaic and photoelectric effect

The Difference Between Photovoltaic and Photoelectric Effect

Photovoltaic and photoelectric effects are two different phenomena related to the interaction between light and materials. While they are often used interchangeably, they have distinct differences that are important to understand. In this article, we will explore the differences between photovoltaic and photoelectric effects.

What is the Photoelectric Effect?

The photoelectric effect is the emission of electrons from a material when it is exposed to light. This effect was first observed by Heinrich Hertz in 1887 and later explained by Albert Einstein in 1905. When light of a certain frequency or higher strikes a material, it can cause the ejection of electrons from the surface of the material. This phenomenon is the basis for many modern technologies, including photomultiplier tubes, solar panels, and photoelectric cells.

What is the Photovoltaic Effect?

The photovoltaic effect, on the other hand, is the generation of an electric current when light strikes a semiconductor material. This process occurs in solar cells, where photons of light are absorbed by the semiconductor material, creating electron-hole pairs. These electron-hole pairs then create an electric current, which can be harnessed for powering electrical devices or storing energy in batteries.

Differences Between the Two

While both the photovoltaic and photoelectric effects involve the interaction of light with materials, the key difference lies in their end results. The photoelectric effect results in the emission of electrons from a material, while the photovoltaic effect results in the generation of an electric current. Additionally, the photoelectric effect is often used in devices such as photomultiplier tubes and photoelectric cells, while the photovoltaic effect is used in solar cells for generating electricity.


In conclusion, the photoelectric and photovoltaic effects are two distinct phenomena that have different outcomes. Understanding the differences between these two effects is crucial for the development and application of light-based technologies, such as solar power and light sensors. By grasping the unique properties of each effect, we can continue to innovate and improve the technologies that rely on them.

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