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A photovoltaic cell (PV cell) converts solar energy into electrical energy. It is one of the most well-known applications of semiconductor materials such as silicon.

A photovoltaic cell follows a very specific law I = f(U) which is called its characteristic. The I_{SC} (short-circuit current) and V_{OC} (open circuit voltage) values are important values specific to each cell. It should be noted that these values and the appearance of the characteristic depend on many other factors such as the type of semiconductor, sunlight and cell temperature.

A photovoltaic cell only delivers power when connected to a load. It then suffices to calculate the operating point to determine the value of the current and voltage delivered by the cell. There is a particular value of the load which maximizes the power. This operating point is called the MPP (Maximum Power Point).

P_{MPP} = V_{MP} × I_{MP}

A solar panel installation will always require the installation of a "charge regulator" in order for the bias point to be positioned near this MPP.

- To illustrate the I = f (U) characteristic of a PV cell.
- To compare the series and parallel assemblies.
- To study the operating point (bias point) of a circuit.
- To characterize a single PV cell or whole solar panel by the quantities I
_{SC}, V_{OC}, and define the MPP and FF (Fill Factor).