A thermodynamic cycle for the solar cell

Robert Alicki , David Gelbwaser-Klimovsky , Alejandro Jenkins


A solar cell is a heat engine, but textbook treatments are not wholly satisfactory from a thermodynamic standpoint, since they present solar cells as directly converting the energy of light into electricity, and the current in the circuit as maintained by an electrostatic potential. We propose a thermodynamic cycle in which the gas of electrons in the pp phase serves as the working substance. The interface between the pp and nn phases acts as a self-oscillating piston that modulates the absorption of heat from the photons so that it may perform a net positive work during a complete cycle of its motion, in accordance with the laws of thermodynamics. We draw a simple hydrodynamical analogy between this model and the “putt-putt” engine of toy boats, in which the interface between the water’s liquid and gas phases serves as the piston. We point out some testable consequences of this model.
Author Robert Alicki IFTiA
Robert Alicki,,
- Institute of Theoretical Physics and Astrophysics
, David Gelbwaser-Klimovsky
David Gelbwaser-Klimovsky,,
, Alejandro Jenkins
Alejandro Jenkins,,
Other language title versions
Journal seriesAnnals of Physics, ISSN 0003-4916
Issue year2017
Publication size in sheets0.8
Keywords in Englishsolar cell, self-oscillation, limit efficiency, plasma oscillation, quantum thermodynamics
URL http://doi.org/10.1016/j.aop.2017.01.003
Languageen angielski
Score (nominal)40
ScoreMinisterial score = 35.0, 20-12-2017, ArticleFromJournal
Ministerial score (2013-2016) = 40.0, 20-12-2017, ArticleFromJournal
Publication indicators WoS Impact Factor: 2016 = 2.465 (2) - 2016=2.545 (5)
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* presented citation count is obtained through Internet information analysis and it is close to the number calculated by the Publish or Perish system.