Can Solar Panels Work With Artificial Light?

Can Solar Panels Work With Artificial Light

Solar energy is one of the most renewable, clean, and cheap sources of power that is ever seen. Going by the current scenario, it’s not surprising if, in the very near future, practically the entire world would be running on solar energy mainly because of how much we love natural and renewable sources compared to nuclear or coal. But since they need sunlight to produce electricity, they cannot function on a cloudy day or at night. What if solar panels could generate energy from other sources of light?

Can solar panels work with artificial light? Yes, solar panels can work with artificial light but they cannot be as productive with artificial lights as with sunlight. However, among all types of artificial lights, incandescent lights are the most effective for solar panels to produce electricity.

In this article, I have discussed the capability of a solar panel to produce electricity from artificial lights. As a part of the discussion, I also elaborated on how a solar panel works and how productive it can be with different artificial lights.


How Do Solar Panels Work with Sunlight?

Solar panels convert sunlight into electricity. When a solar cell receives light, they generate a wave of electrons. Two factors play a crucial role in the process. One is the amount of light, and the other is the materials used to make the panel.

The amount of electricity a solar panel can generate from a certain amount of light depends on the type of materials of the solar panel.

The Photoelectric Effect

The process of converting light into power by a solar panel is called the photoelectric effect. It is opposite to the process which generates light from electricity in a bulb.

Though the technology is named Solar Power, it can produce electricity from any kind of light. However, the intensity of light in the sun is higher. So, it is viable to produce electricity from the sun rather than from other lights. Again, the light of the sun is available in nature for free, and other sources of light involve cost.

The Photons of Light

The main component of a solar power system is silicon. Silicon has a diversified application. To make the silicons produce electricity from light, you have to make it go through a chemical process.

Photon is an elementary particle of light. When photons from the light reach the silicon of the solar panel, the silicons start to convert into energy. What happens is, the photons separate electrons from the atoms of the silicon.

And the chemical movement caused by this process generates electricity. The volume of silicons of the panel determines the final output of electricity.

The Renewability

The reason why solar panels are so appreciated is their renewable nature. Any coal-based or diesel-based power generation technique requires a continuous supply of primary energy to produce electricity.

However, in a solar panel, the same silicons continue to generate electricity day after day without a need for reinforcement.

The Inverter

However, to make the electricity usable, they need to be converted from DC (Direct Current) into AC (Alternating Current). You cannot use direct current in your appliances because they have a constant voltage. And electric devices need a current which can oscillate between positive and negative.

To convert direct current in alternating current, you need a separate inverter. That is why you always find a solar panel connected with an inverter.

The Limitation

Solar panels do not use any primary fuel to produce electricity. That is why they are Clean Energy. Though the initial cost of setting a solar panel is high, it gets less with each year passed.

Still, you cannot rely on solar panels completely, since they depend on a variable energy input- the sun. On cloudy days or at night, solar panel users need to use batteries or electricity from the grid.


How Do Solar Panels Work with Artificial Light?

Solar panels will not produce as much electricity with artificial lights as they do with sunlight. The number of photons in artificial light is much less than that of the sun. Still, a solar panel can produce electricity from artificial light in small amounts.

The Scientific Explanation

Technically, a solar panel can produce power with its silicons by using photons of light, which have wavelengths ranging from 300 nm to 1,200 nm.

If you take a source of artificial light as an incandescent lamp, you will find 300 nm to 380 nm of wavelength in it. So, logically there is no obstacle for a solar panel to generate electricity from artificial light.

Type of the Solar Panel

Another factor of the efficiency of a solar panel to produce electricity from artificial light is the type of the panel. Different types of solar panels have different capacities to produce power from artificial lights.

Depending on the technology of the solar panel, they produce different amounts of current. Monocrystalline, polycrystalline. Cadmium Tellurium, CiGS- are some of the technologies that solar panels use to produce electricity.

The Research

Two researchers of the Ghent University of Belgium researched the efficiency of solar panels to produce electricity with different artificial lights. Ben Minnaert and Peter Veelaert used four artificial lights in their research. They used metal halide lamps, incandescent, fluorescent, and LED lights with different solar panels to observe the outcomes.

The result of the research was not that surprising. The overall power generation of different solar panels using different artificial lights was much less than that with sunlight. However, researchers could notice which artificial light is better for solar panels to produce energy.

Which Artificial Lights are Good for Solar Panels to Produce Electricity?

Among all the artificial lights, lab research has identified incandescent lamps to be the most efficient to produce electricity with a solar panel.

However, some other artificial lights were also productive input for a solar panel. But the amount of electricity produced by them was insignificant.

Incandescent Lamps

Incandescent lamps are the oldest form of artificial light. They have glowing wire filaments inside them. This type of light is proven to be most effective in producing electricity from a solar panel. But the output of electricity from incandescent lights also varies with solar panels with different technologies.

The solar panels with monocrystalline technology were able to produce the maximum electricity from incandescent lights. The second-best solar panel technology to work with incandescent lights is polycrystalline and CIGS technologies.


You can also use a fluorescent light to produce electricity from a solar panel. There are 12 types of fluorescent lights available on the market. They mainly use electrically-charged gases to produce light. This technology targets to produce a low-band light spectrum.

But fluorescent lights are not very effective in producing electricity from a solar panel. Because the range of wavelength that a fluorescent light produces is not sufficient to utilize the maximum capacity of a solar panel.


LED bulbs use light-emitting diodes (LEDs) to produce light. Compared to incandescent and fluorescent lights, LED bulbs are much more energy-efficient. However, so far producing electricity with a solar panel is concerned, LED lights are not as efficient as incandescent lights.

Lab researches show that LED lights can produce little electricity with a solar panel with silicon technology. However, they can produce some power with solar panels with GaAs and CdTe technology.

Metal Halide Lamps

It is a high-pressure discharge lamp that uses mercury and metal halide to produce light. Metal Halide Lamps can also produce electricity from a solar panel.

But the amount of electricity a solar panel can make with metal halide lamps is very insignificant. Research shows they can only produce a bit more than 1 W/m2 electricity in a solar panel.


Which Solar Panel Produces More Electricity with Artificial Lights?

The capacity of generating electricity for a solar panel also depends on the type of technology it uses. Here I have discussed different solar panels and their ability to produce electricity with artificial lights.

Monocrystalline Silicon Panels

The cells of a monocrystalline silicon panel are made from a single silicon crystal. You can recognize a monocrystalline silicon panel by its black surface.

Monocrystalline silicon panels can produce the highest amount of electricity from an artificial light if they get incandescent Lights to work on.

Polycrystalline Silicon Panels

Polycrystalline silicon panels are the most popular solar panels. They have multiple silicon crystals to produce electricity. The color of the surface of this solar panel is blue.

Solar panels with polycrystalline silicon technology are the most efficient ones to produce energy from sunlight. However, they cannot produce energy from artificial lights as much as a monocrystalline silicon panel can produce.

Thin-film solar panels

Thin-film solar panels are created by depositing one or more thin films of photovoltaic material on glass, plastic, or metal.

However, this type of solar panel has little capability to generate power from artificial light. They also lag behind in generating electricity from sunlight.


Now you know the answer to whether or not solar panels can work with artificial light. However, using artificial lights to produce electricity from a solar panel is not a viable idea. Because artificial lights themselves consume electricity. So, there is not much point in using artificial light for generating electricity.

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