The photovoltaic effect is the conversion of light to electrical energy. (E6F04) In a device called a photovoltaic cell, electrons absorb the energy from light falling on a photovoltaic cell. (E6F12) The electrons then become free electrons.
The most common type of photovoltaic cell used for electrical power generation is silicon. (E6F10) The approximate open-circuit voltage produced by a fully-illuminated silicon photovoltaic cell is 0.5 V. (E6F11) The efficiency of a photovoltaic cell is the relative fraction of light that is converted to current. (E6F09)
Photoconductivity is a similar phenomenon. Photoconductivity is the increased conductivity of an illuminated semiconductor. (E6F01) The conductivity of a photoconductive material increases when light shines on it. (E6F02) A crystalline semiconductor is the material that is affected the most by photoconductivity. (E6F06)
A device that uses the phenomenon of photoconductivity is the optoisolator. The most common configuration of an optoisolator or optocoupler is an LED and a phototransistor. (E6F03) Optoisolators are often used in conjunction with solid state circuits when switching 120 VAC because optoisolators provide a very high degree of electrical isolation between a control circuit and the circuit being switched. (E6F08)
A similar device is the solid-state relay. A solid state relay is a device that uses semiconductor devices to implement the functions of an electromechanical relay. (E6F07)
Optical shaft encoders are another device that rely on photoconductivity. An optical shaft encoder is a device which detects rotation of a control by interrupting a light source with a patterned wheel. (E6F05) Optical shaft encoders are used to detect when an operator turns a knob on an amateur radio transceiver.