Introduction: How to Make a Solar Cell
As we collectively grow more aware of the serious dangers of global climate change, one of the main transitions that our society will need to make is in how we produce and consume energy.
Transitioning our homes and our economy to be powered by renewable and green energy sources, such as solar cell systems, wind turbines, and the like, has already begun and will only pick up steam in the coming years.
Image source: Pixabay
While solar cell energy has become significantly cheaper in recent years, the price of putting up a complete solar cell system on your roof can be prohibitively expensive upfront for many individuals and families. Learning how to make solar cells offers an inexpensive way to take advantage of renewable energy technology. But is a solar cell DIY really possible, and can anyone learn how to make a solar cell?
In this brief article, AdvisoryHQ will review the process of making a DIY solar cell. We begin by explaining what solar cell technology really is before looking at whether or not it is possible to make your own solar cell.
Next, we look at how to make a DIY solar cell or homemade solar cell completely from scratch. For people who want to try and make a solar cell DIY, we also offer information on how much energy you will need to make your own solar cell.
Finally, we offer a step-by-step guide for DIY solar cells and how to make a solar cell of your own.
What Is a Solar Cell?
Most of us have probably seen houses covered in solar panels. While we probably don’t understand the technology behind these solar panels, we do understand that they convert the electricity of the sun into energy that we can use to light our homes, run our kitchen appliances, and even heat our homes.
In short, a solar cell system is a system that converts the energy and light of the sun into electricity through the photovoltaic effect.
While the physics and chemistry behind the photovoltaic effect may be difficult to explain to a novice, let is suffice to say that the photovoltaic effect is a physical and chemical phenomenon that allows for sunlight to be converted into electricity that is useful to humans. Even DIY solar cells depend on the photovoltaic effect to be functional.
According to Wikipedia, a solar cell needs three important requirements in order to produce electricity:
- The absorption of light, generating either electron-hole pairs or excitons.
- The separation of charge carriers of opposite types.
- The separate extraction of those carriers to an external circuit.”
Image Source: Wikipedia
Is It Possible to Make Your Own Solar Cell?
If it were possible to make your own solar cell to provide electricity to your home, why doesn’t everyone do it? A simple solar cell for sale online can cost anywhere between $500 and $1000 depending on the number of watts it can produce.
Learning how to make solar cells, then, would be a significant savings for people interested in solar and renewable energies.
Regarding a DIY solar cell, there are usually two different types of technologies. While you can make your own solar cell in miniature form from scratch, you can also purchase a solar cell that only requires you to do some of the installation.
These DIY solar cells are prefabricated but require installation on your own and will significantly reduce the overall cost of your solar cell system.
If you want to make your own solar cell system that is powerful enough to power your home, the best option will be to purchase the solar cell batteries that are premade and do the set up and installation on your own. We will go over this DIY solar cell option in more detail below.
How to Make a DIY Solar Cell From Scratch
If you are interested in making a DIY solar cell from scratch, the first thing you will need to do is purchase the following items.
- Titanium dioxide
- 2 binder clips
- Acetone or rubbing alcohol
- Glass plates
- Cotton pads
- Alligator clips
- Piece of hard plastic
- 2 shallow dishes
- De-mineralized water
- Raspberry juice
- Hot plate
Once you have all of the materials for your DIY solar cell, follow the instructions below to make your own solar cell.
- Clean both of the glass plates with alcohol and the cotton pads
- Mix the titanium oxide with water and spread it over one of the glass plates but not all the way to the edge
- Bake the titanium oxide covered plate on your hot plate for a few hours on low temperature
- Put the plate in the raspberry juice
- With the other (conductive) plate, cover the conductive side of the plate with the graphite from a pencil
- Mix the first plate with de-mineralized water
- Place both of the plates together with binder clips and use the alligator clips connected to a voltmeter to see how much energy your mini DIY solar cell is producing.
How Much Energy Do You Need for DIY Solar Cells
If you are interested in making a larger and more effective solar cell for your home, you probably won’t be able to learn how to make a solar cell from scratch. Rather, you can purchase the solar cell premade and save lots of money through assembling and connecting the solar cell system yourself.
The first step, however, is to find out how much energy your house will need. The average American home uses somewhere around 1,000 kwh of energy each month. You will need to cover your entire roof with solar cell technology.
By reducing the amount of energy you use through switching to LED lights and the energy efficient appliances, you might very well be able to save significant amounts of electricity.
Additionally, if you are building a new home and want to learn how to make a solar cell to power your home, you might first consider designing your home so that it can be warmed using passive solar design.
By orienting your home toward the south (the direction sunlight comes from) and placing large windows in the south-facing side of your home, you might be able to heat your home without dependence on electricity.
By reducing the amount of electricity your household uses, you will be able to use fewer DIY solar cells in the design of your solar cell system.
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) offers a free online calculator to help you determine how much energy your household uses and what type of solar cell you will need to power your home.
Step-by-Step Guide on Installing a Homemade Solar Cell
If you think you are ready to install your own DIY solar cells, the first step is to find a cheap solar cell online. You can find solar cell technology online at eBay or Amazon.com.
According to Green Optimistic.com, “there are a lot of solar cell types that you can choose from. There are the Chinese ones, with good results, the best price, but not guaranteeing much, there are the Japanese ones with good performance, good price and the guarantee of Japanese work, and there are the American ones, with the best performance, the highest price and again, guarantees over guarantees.
Choose wisely with regard to your budget. For example, a rule of thumb in 2012 would be that the cells shouldn’t sell for more than $1.3 per watt.”
If you want to make your own solar cell system that is around 200 watts, for example, you shouldn’t pay any more than $250, and perhaps much less than that.
Find a flat wooden board where you will mount the solar cell that you purchased and draw separating lines where each solar cell will go. Once all the pieces are mounted on the board, you will need to solder the wires to make the connection.
If you don’t have a soldering iron, solder, solder paste, and flux, you will need to purchase those or find someone who knows how to solder to help you set up your DIY solar cell.
As you connect the different solar cells, you will want to link them in series. Of course, the positive lead will always need to be soldered to the negative lead of the next solar cell in your series. By linking the solar cell in series, you will increase the voltage of your solar cell system.
Lastly, Green Optimistic recommends that you “make connection buses along the positive and the negative lead and then connect those buses (thicker wires) in parallel (plus to plus, minus to minus) to have a parallel connection and increase the amperage.”
And that’s it! You have your own homemade solar cell that will help you save on your electric bill while using a renewable, green energy source.
Conclusion – The Benefits of Learning to Make Your Own Solar Cell
As our society and economy transitions into renewable energy sources, we all need to do our part to help along these new technologies.
Learning how to make solar cells not only will introduce you and your family to these earth-friendly technologies, but will also make you feel as if you are doing your part to protecting our planet.
A homemade solar cell can be as simple as a school project that you help your child with or as complex as a full-out retrofitting of your home with a solar cell DIY system to make your home completely sustainable and even off-grid.
At the same time, learning to make your own solar cell or DIY solar cell can save you hundreds, if not thousands of dollars compared to purchasing a commercially-made solar cell system.
Transitioning into a greener economy and society requires effort and sacrifice by all of us. Learning how to make a solar cell is a skill that will be useful and beneficial to both you and your community.
With a little bit of time and study, a DIY solar cell system can be set up by anyone with a little bit of patience and hard work.
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