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Photovoltaic Black Box

This experiment will focus on learning how to measure the voltage and current using a multimeter. It
will also focus on using experimental data to determine the contents of a black box. Voltage is
measured across circuit elements between two points. The voltmeter is placed in parallel with the
elements. Current is flow and it flows through our elements. To measure current the meter must be
inserted into the circuit in series with the element that we wish to know the current in. These are very
important distinctions and ones that should be remembered.
A small photovoltaic cell will be used as the voltage source for this experiment. This cell converts light
energy into electrical energy. It is capable of producing electrical power in the form of voltage and
current. We will build a simple circuit to characterize our photovoltaic cell and determine how much
power it can produce. We will also use this circuit to help us develop a circuit model for the cell. In
the ideal world the cell would behave like an ideal voltage source, but this isn't an ideal world. The cell
behaves more like an ideal voltage source in series with a resistor.
The test circuit for our cell is shown in Schematic 1. R1 is a load resistor we will add to the cell to
consume power generated by the cell. It is not the resistor that will be used when me model our black

Become proficient at measuring voltage and current using a DMM
Analyze experimental data to develop a circuit model for a black box
Verify circuit model using circuit simulation.



Photovoltaic R1
Cell R


Schematic 1: Schematic used in Part 1 of


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Photovoltaic Black Box

Draw three copies of the schematic of the schematic above. The first being the original schematic, then
one showing how the voltmeter will be connected and one showing how the ammeter should be
connected. Label your schematics showing the voltage and current reference marks. Assume positive
current flows into the resistor, from N1 to N2. Prepare your notebook with the appropriate data tables.
Samples of these data tables are shown in Table 1, Table 2, and Table 3. Because we are going to use
Excel to analyze this data you may record your data tables in excel and print them out for your
notebook. For prelab show your instructor your setup excel spreadsheet.

Ideal Actual
Table 1: Resistor value table. Use actual resistor values for all calculations and simulations.
Open circuit voltage voltage of photovoltaic cell #
Facing Up Facing Lab Equipment

Table 2: OC voltages based on orientation

V and I will be measured for different resistor values. The analysis requires computing power in the
resistor that column should be placed in the table as well.

Load V (Volts) I (uA) P(uW) Resistor V (Volts) %Error I (uA) %Error I

(R1) Measure Measure LTSpice V LTSpice (measure
(measure vs spice)
vs spice
Table 3: V and I data table
Answer these prelab questions: Which load will have the largest measured output voltage? Which
load will have the smallest measured output voltage? Which load will have the largest measured output
current? Which load will have the smallest measured output current? Output voltage and output
current are the voltage across and current through your load.
When taking your data measurements, make sure that you sanity check that your values match what
you have answered here.

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Photovoltaic Black Box

In the lab we will be characterizing your photovoltaic cell. This will involve finding the output voltage
and output current of the cell under a variety of conditions.
1. First, we will see how changing the orientation of the cell changes the output voltage. Measure the
Open Circuit (OC) voltage with the cell facing the lab equipment and then facing the ceiling. In
your data table record these voltages along with the cell number of your photovoltaic cell.
A. When the cell is set to face the ceiling tape it down on the lab bench. Observe what happens
to the OC voltage of the cell as you move around the bench. Make sure you record your
observations in your lab notebook.
B. Determine how you will sit when taking future measurements so that your measurements
are repeatable.
1. What lab station you are using and current weather conditions may affect repeatability,
so you should observe and record this information.
2. Hook up the circuit shown in Schematic 1.
3. Take measurements of voltage out of the photovoltaic cell and current through the resistor with the
following values of R1: 0 (SC), 4.7K, 10K, and (OC). Remember to measure voltage and
current you need to connect the DMM differently. Consult the schematic you drew in your
notebook. Also, the DMM needs to be configured differently for each measurements. Both voltage
and current use the same common terminal on the DMM but they use different input terminals.
A. First measure the current using the 10A current inputs.
B. Once you know that your setup is correct for current, change to the 200mA current inputs.
This will give you a more accurate measurement. We don't want to blow the 200mA DMM
fuses with an incorrect connection.

1. Create a three graphs from your data. Graph voltage vs resistance, current vs resistance and voltage
vs current. Make sure these graphs follows the trend you predicted in prelab.
1. These graphs should be done in Excel and be XY or Scatter Plots.
2. These graphs should present in a way that makes it easy to see the trends and linearity of the
1. Don't just plot the individual data points, connect them with lines.
2. Calculate the power consumed by the resistor.
3. Treat the photovoltaic cell as a black box. From your data, design a circuit using a voltage source
and a resistor to model the cell. Simulate your circuit in LTspice, for each different load resistor.
Use 100M to represent the OC condition.

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Photovoltaic Black Box

4. Compare the outputs of your LTspice simulation with what you measured.
5. Why does the orientation of the photovoltaic cell change its output? Which orientation produced
the largest voltage and why?
6. Does the photovoltaic cell represent an ideal voltage source? Why or why not? Changing light
conditions does not affect whether the cell is ideal or not. Changing the light conditions is
equivalent to a human changing the voltage coming out of the power supply. The power supply is
still ideal.
7. Why is it important to record the photovoltaic number?
** Any time you compare measurements and calculations, calculate a %Error. Use the %Error
to justify if values match or don't match.

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