Photosynthesis is the process by the help of which plants make their own food by capturing the solar energy. Solar cell as compared to the plants coverts the sunlight into electric energy in order to be used by the human beings. This paper aims to highlight the differences and similarities between a plant cell and a solar cell in addition to the application of laws of thermodynamics to each system.
Laws of Thermodynamics
In the case of photosynthesis and the solar cells, three laws of thermodynamics are applicable. According to the first law of thermodynamics, energy, or mass cannot be created nor they can be destroyed (Rana, 2008, p. 67). The first law of thermodynamics is fulfilled by the plant cells as no new energy or mass is being created but solar energy is being converted into chemical energy or electric energy in the case of solar cells. Second law says that not all of the energy absorbed from the reservoir can be converted into work. Plant cells and the solar cells fulfill this law as some of the energy is lost as heat and not all the captured solar energy is converted into electric or chemical energy. At absolute zero temperature, all systems cease which means that energy production cease causes all functions to stop (Nelson, 2003, p. 78). Constant fuel or energy is required by these systems in order to make the conversions in the case of plant cells; the energy comes from ATPs and in solar cells, electric charge is the source of energy. This fulfills the third law of thermodynamics.
Similarities between Solar Cells and Plant Cells
1. Both plant cells and solar cells use sunlight as the source of energy.
2. The conversion of sunlight in plants is used to make foods for plants and electricity by solar cells that are both beneficial to the humankind.
3. Solar cells and plants have cells that are used to capture the energy from the sun. The functioning of these cells is important in the conversion of one form of energy into another (Rana, 2008, p. 98).
Differences between Solar Cells and Plant Cells
1. Solar cells only absorb 20% of the incident sunlight as compared to 0.03% captured by the plants. Here the difference of the energy comes into light. A single photon of the sunlight is more than enough for a single plant atom to excite to higher energy levels whereas even more energy is required for functioning of the solar cells.
2. Plant cells convert solar energy into chemical energy while solar cells convert solar energy into electricity. Plants are one of the most important source that add up to moisture recycling and solar cells cannot obtain any befits from precipitation. Presence of dust in the air can greatly reduce the efficiency of the solar cells to more than 40%. Dust on the other hand has no effect on plant cells.
3. Solar cells use inorganic semiconductors as compared to the plants that use organic processes for the conversion. Thereby the main difference lies in the fact that the nature of the cells is different in both the plants and solar cells (Nelson, 2003, p. 23).
The main difference between solar cells and plant cells is based on the nature of the cells as organic reactions are involved in plant cells and inorganic reactions are involved in solar cells. Solar cells as compared to the plant cells are more sensitive to the presence of dust in the air that can reduce solar cell efficiency by more than 40%. Plant cells as compared to solar cells contribute oxygen and moisture to the environment whereas no contribution is given by the solar cells.
Nelson, J. (2003). The physics of solar cells, Volume 2 of Series on Properties of Semiconductor Materials. Imperial College Press.
Rana, F. (2008). The cell’s design: how chemistry reveals the Creator’s artistry. Baker Books.
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