Don’t expect these DIY
solar cells to be the answer to all of you energy needs, but they can
produce enough electricity to power small devices and charge batteries
if you connect multiple homemade solar cells together to form a larger
solar panel. This project also makes a great tool for
children to experiment and learn about the principle of photovoltaics
and the possibilities for using solar energy.
Materials You Will Need
for Your Homemade Solar Cells
Step By Step Instructions
for Building Your Own Homemade Solar Cell
First you’ll need to take
metal shears and cut two equal sized pieces of the copper sheeting. The
pieces should be no larger than your burner so you can ensure that the
entire piece of copper is heated thoroughly and equally.
Now you will need to wash
hands and the piece of copper to ensure that it is free of grease and
other contaminants. You should only touch the copper sheet with gloves
from this point on. After washing the sheet of copper, you need to take
the sandpaper or emery cloth and gently sand down the top layer of the
sheet to ensure it is completely free of any debris or contaminants.
Turn the burner on to its
highest setting and let it heat up thoroughly. Then place one piece of
the copper sheeting on the burner. The copper will start to turn a
variety of different colors as it heats up, and then it will start to
become covered in a thick black coating known as cupric oxide.
copper is fully covered in the black cupric oxide, let the copper
continue to heat on the burner for another thirty minutes. After 30
minutes you can shut the burner off, and then let the piece of copper
cool for at least another thirty minutes before touching it. Don’t
worry if some of the black cupric oxide layer flakes off during the
heating or cooling process, as you will be removing this layer later
Once the copper has
sufficiently cooled, tap it gently on its edge on a hard surface to
knock off as much of the black cupric oxide as you can. After this you
can gently wash it with soap and water to reveal a reddish rust colored
layer of cuprous oxide underneath.
Do not scrub or scour the
sheeting as you don’t want to damage the layer of cuprous oxide. It’s
not necessary to remove all of the black flakes of cupric oxide, just
try to get as much of it off as possible without damaging the layer
Now you will need to take
piece of copper that you heated and gently place it inside your mason
jar. Be careful not to bend it too much: just gently form it to the
inside curve of the jar. Make sure that the side of the copper sheet
that was directly on the face of the burner is facing the inside of the
Next, repeat the same
process and place the unheated piece of
copper inside the jar on the opposite side of the heated piece of
copper, making sure that the two pieces are not touching.
Now take the alligator
leads from your amp meter or LCD multimeter and connect the positive
lead to the unheated piece of copper and the negative lead to the
heated copper sheet.
Now you’ll need to
mix a solution of around 25% salt and 75% water, ensuring that the salt
is fully dissolved in the water. This solution will ensure that the two
pieces of copper make a connection so that electricity can be
Slowly and gently pour the
solution into your mason jar,
being sure to avoid getting the alligator clips wet. The very top of
the copper sheets should be above the water to again keep the leads
from being wet which will cause your solar cell not to work.
Once you have filled your
with the salt and water solution, then your DIY solar cell is ready to
start generating electricity. Place the jar in the sunlight, and the
copper sheet covered in the layer of cuprous oxide will react
photovoltaically and generate a small amount of electricity due the
Connect your amp meter to
the alligator clips and you should
be able to read how much electricity is being produced.
this device to produce very much energy, but if you connect multiple of
these DIY solar cells together, you may generate enough power to run or
charge a small device.
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