A Light Sensor generates an output signal indicating the intensity of light by measuring the radiant energy that exists in a very narrow range of frequencies basically called “light”, and which ranges in frequency from “Infra-red” to “Visible” up to “Ultraviolet” light spectrum.
The Light Sensor is a passive devices that convert this “light energy” whether visible or in the infra-red parts of the spectrum into an electrical signal output. Light sensors are more commonly known as “Photoelectric Devices” or “Photo Sensors” because the convert light energy (photons) into electricity (electrons).
Photoelectric devices can be grouped into two main categories, those which generate electricity when illuminated, such as Photo-voltaics or Photo-emissives etc, and those which change their electrical properties in some way such as Photo-resistors or Photo-conductors. This leads to the following classification of devices.
Photo-emissive Cells – These are photodevices which release free electrons from a light sensitive material such as caesium when struck by a photon of sufficient energy. The amount of energy the photons have depends on the frequency of the light and the higher the frequency, the more energy the photons have converting light energy into electrical energy.
Photo-conductive Cells – These photodevices vary their electrical resistance when subjected to light. Photoconductivity results from light hitting a semiconductor material which controls the current flow through it. Thus, more light increase the current for a given applied voltage. The most common photoconductive material is Cadmium Sulphide used in LDR photocells.
Photo-voltaic Cells – These photodevices generate an emf in proportion to the radiant light energy received and is similar in effect to photoconductivity. Light energy falls on to two semiconductor materials sandwiched together creating a voltage of approximately 0.5V. The most common photovoltaic material is Selenium used in solar cells.
Photo-junction Devices – These photodevices are mainly true semiconductor devices such as the photodiode or phototransistor which use light to control the flow of electrons and holes across their PN-junction. Photojunction devices are specifically designed for detector application and light penetration with their spectral response tuned to the wavelength of incident light.