Types of Photocells

••• Cindy Shebley/iStock/GettyImages

Photocells, otherwise known as photodetectors and photosensors, are a catch-all category for a wide range of devices that interact or operate based off exposure to photons, or electromagnetic energy. Listed here are some examples of photocells, and their uses.


A photovoltaic cell converts solar energy into electrical power. Photons knock electrons on the cell itself into a higher state of energy, causing a usable current.

Charge-Coupled Devices

Charge-coupled devices are used by the scientific community as an extremely reliable and accurate photosensor. Charges produced by photosensitive sensors are used to analyze a range of things from galaxies to single molecules.


Light-dependent resistors are devices whose resistivity to electrical currents decreases with the amount of light they're exposed to. Many alarms and camera light meters use cheap photoresistors for their applications.

Golay Cell

Golay cells are used to detect infrared radiation. A tube with a blackened metal plate on one end is filled with xenon gas. Infrared energy that falls on the blackened plate heats up the gas and distorts the flexible diaphragm on the other end, the motion of which is used to determine the output of the energy source.


Photomultipliers are extremely sensitive detectors. The faintest wave of light is multiplied by as much as 100 million times.

Related Articles

The Part of a Solar Panel That Absorbs Light
What Are Infrared Heaters?
Instruments for Measuring Temperature
How to Convert Nanometers to Joules
How to Convert Photons to Joules
Common Physics Laboratory Apparatus
Uses of Resistors
Uses of Photocells
What Are the Advantages & Disadvantages of Diode Lasers?
10 Uses of Alpha Radiation
Parts of a Battery
Types of Sensors & Actuators
Sources of Microwaves
Tools Used to Measure Temperature
Types of Optical Sensors
How to Figure the Energy of One Mole of a Photon
The Effect of Wavelength on Photovoltaic Cells
An Electrical Engineer's Vocabulary Words
How to Convert Wattage to Degrees
Difference Between Digital Inverter & Sine Wave Inverter