pho·​to·​vol·​ta·​ic ˌfō-tō-väl-ˈtā-ik How to pronounce photovoltaic (audio)
: of, relating to, or utilizing the generation of a voltage when radiant energy falls on the boundary between dissimilar substances (such as two different semiconductors)
photovoltaic noun

Did you know?

Sunshine and Photovoltaic

The -voltaic part of photovoltaic comes from the name of Alessandro Volta, inventor of the electric battery. Thus, unlike photoelectric cells, which use electricity for certain small tasks, photovoltaic (or PV) cells actually produce electricity. Solar cells, the standard type of photovoltaic cells (often called simply photocells), operate without chemicals and with no moving parts to create energy directly from sunlight. Much research is now being done on creating an alternative technology—solar film, which could be stuck onto almost any surface, or possibly even sprayed on.

Examples of photovoltaic in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Silicon, the ubiquitous light-absorbing photovoltaic material that makes up more than 90 percent of today’s photovoltaic market, sits in the sweet spot of this trade-off. Tracy H. Schloemer, IEEE Spectrum, 19 Sep. 2023 Founded in 2017, Adani Solar is the solar photovoltaic (PV) manufacturing arm of Adani Group, one of the largest conglomerates in India with a world-class energy, transport and utility infrastructure portfolio. Foreign Affairs, 7 Sep. 2023 The micro-homes are powered by electricity sourced from a solar photovoltaic array nearby and use water from a well located on-site. Kimberley Mok, Treehugger, 5 Sep. 2023 Duke Energy is also building one of Kentucky’s most extensive solar arrays — 5,600 photovoltaic panels on the 800,000-square-foot Amazon Air Hub rooftop. Ken Silverstein, Forbes, 13 Aug. 2023 And teams from Solar Power of Oklahoma are busy fastening photovoltaic panels to the roofs of homes and businesses around Tulsa. New York Times, 17 Aug. 2023 Workers produce solar photovoltaic modules used for solar panels at a factory in Suqian in China’s eastern Jiangsu province. WSJ, 15 Aug. 2023 Generating National Attention and Investment The U.S. Department of Energy last year announced a five-year strategy and action plan to tackle the end-of-life challenge with photovoltaic panels. Tree Meinch, Discover Magazine, 2 Aug. 2023 Today’s photovoltaic technology has a long history of performance out in the real world. Jackie Snow, WSJ, 13 Nov. 2022 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'photovoltaic.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


International Scientific Vocabulary

First Known Use

circa 1889, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of photovoltaic was circa 1889

Dictionary Entries Near photovoltaic

Cite this Entry

“Photovoltaic.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Oct. 2023.

More from Merriam-Webster on photovoltaic

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!