Plant Cell and Solar Cell: Similarities and Differences
Photosynthesis is that process by which plants harness the solar energy for producing food. These cells help the plants to trap energy from the daylight. This trapped light is converted into other constituents that are then used by the plant to manufacture food. The additional components such as oxygen are released to the atmosphere. After these processes, the light energy is converted to chemical energy. The modern science has been able to develop technologies containing semiconductors that have solar cells. The solar energy is trapped and is converted to electricity by these solar cells (Haile & O’Connell, 2005).
The semiconductors and photosynthesis have some similarities and dissimilarities. As far as the similarities are concerned, their aim is to harness the solar energy. While plants use photosynthesis to lock in energy from the sun for manufacturing food, semiconductors trap solar energy to convert it into electricity (Durham, 2012). It means that the solar cells either reflect or absorb a good quantity of sunlight as heat with no generation of an electrical current. Secondly, both plants and semiconductors have cells that trap energy from the sun. Thirdly, both plant cells and solar cells convert the solar energy into useful form. Both systems work best when placed at a 90 degree angle to the sunbeams (Haile & O’Connell, 2005).
On the other hand, there are several differences between them. Firstly, the energy trapped by the plants is converted into chemical energy whereas the energy trapped by semiconductors containing solar cells is transformed into electrical energy. The two systems also differ in their forms of production. While plant cells harness energy naturally, solar cells are man-made devices that are designed at factories for trapping the solar energy (Haile & O’Connell, 2005).
Moreover, as compared to solar cells, plants are less competent at confining the energy in sunlight principally due to the fact that they have too much evolutionary storage system. Plants are designed by nature and are responsible for powering a living thin whereas solar cells are only responsible for sending electricity down a wire. In addition, the majorities of plants use the full strength of sunlight. However, some of this sunlight is diverted to save the plant from damage. On the other hand, solar cells use different regions of the solar spectrum to achieve that photo conversion edge (DOE/National Renewable Energy Laboratory, 2011).
The laws of thermodynamics are applicable to both plant cells and solar cells. Plants transform solar energy into food energy while photosynthesizing. This reveals that they obey the 1st law of thermodynamics. Moreover, plants do not change all the solar into food energy but also lose some of it during the process. Therefore, the 2nd law of thermodynamics is obeyed. The 3rd law of thermodynamics is also made relevant as plants need constant energy from the sun to manufacture food (Haile & O’Connell, 2005).
Semiconductors, too, comply with the first law of thermodynamics. The solar cells transform the trapped solar energy into electricity. They also follow the second law of thermodynamics by losing energy during this process of transforming energy trapped from the sun into electricity. Last but not the least; the solar cells obey the third law of thermodynamics as they are in constant need of trapping energy from the sunbeams in order to produce electricity (Haile & O’Connell, 2005).
Thus, both plant cells and solar cells are similar in their ways of conversion of energy. Both the cell types also follow the laws of thermodynamics which makes them similar too. However, their differences reveal their distinctiveness and uniqueness.
DOE/National Renewable Energy Laboratory (2011, May 12). Improving photosynthesis? Solar cells beat plants at harvesting sun’s energy, for now. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 27, 2012, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110512151408.htm
Durham, S. (2012, January 16). Comparing Energy Conversion of Plants and Solar Cells. Retrieved July 27, 2012 from http://phys.org/news/2012-01-energy-conversion-solar-cells.html
Haile, J.M., & O’Connell, J.P. (2005). Thermodynamics: Fundamentals for Applications. New York: Cambridge University Press.
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