Photovoltaics is the direct conversion of light into electricity that occurs naturally in certain types of material, called semiconductors that exhibit a property known as the photoelectric effect that causes them to absorb photons of light and release electrons. Electrons in these materials are freed by solar energy and can be induced to travel through an electrical circuit.
In most cases, the semiconductor material is used to manufacture a solar cell. Solar cells are primarily made up of silicon which absorbs the photons emitted by Sun. When sun ray’s strikes the solar cell, electrons are knocked loose from the atoms in the semiconductor material. If electrical conductors are attached to the positive and negative sides, forming an electrical circuit, the electrons can be captured in the form of electric current called electricity. A number of solar cells electrically connected to each other and mounted in a frame is called a photovoltaic module.
The working of a solar cell is well explained in the video by SciToons – Brown University, below.
Video by: SciToons – Brown University