Fritts coated the semiconductor material selenium with an extremely thin layer of gold. The resulting cells had a conversion electrical efficiency of only about 1% owing to the properties of selenium, which in combination with the material's high cost prevented the use of such cells for energy supply. Selenium cells found other applications however, for example as light sensors for exposure timing in photo cameras, where they were common well into the 1960s.
Solar cells later became practical for power uses after Russell Ohl's 1941 development of silicon p/n junction cells that reached efficiencies above 5% by the 1950s/1960s.
Today's best silicon solar cells are over 20% efficient, with industrial average over 13%.
- Fritts, C. E. (1883). "On a New Form of Selenium Photocell". American Journal of Science 26: 465.
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