A device that regulates or produces a current
in response to certain types of radiation
, especially visible light
. It is gernerally based on a semiconductor
, such as selenium
, or silicon
, suitably prepared or modified.
In a photoemissive cell, a photosensitive cathode emits electrons when it is illuminated. These electrons constitute a current when they flow to the positive anode of a cell. In a photovoltaic cell, light changes the behavior of a p-n junction (a certain conductive junction between certain layers of a semiconductor), creating an electric potential difference by the photovoltaic effect. In a photoconductive cell, the resistance of a substance changes as a result of photoconductivity. Photoelectric cells are used in light meters, as in photography; light detectors, as in burglar alarms; and spacecraft power supplies.
Also called: photocell
See also: photoelectric effect