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

What Are Infrared Heaters?
How to Convert Nanometers to Joules
10 Uses of Alpha Radiation
Uses of Photocells
Parts of a Battery
Which Wavelengths and Frequencies Are Most Dangerous?
The Part of a Solar Panel That Absorbs Light
How to Convert Photons to Joules
How to Convert BTU to Horsepower
Types of Optical Sensors
Sources of Microwaves
What Are the Different Types of Ballast?
Frequency of LED Lights
Why Are Transistors So Important?
The Effect of Wavelength on Photovoltaic Cells
What Are the Advantages & Disadvantages of Diode Lasers?
The Output Watts of Solar Panels
3 Million Candle Power Spot Light Vs. 600 Lumens Spotlight
Common Physics Laboratory Apparatus
How to Convert HP to KVA