How to Make a Solar Panel

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Solar cells convert the energy of the sun into electricity. By using items commonly found in the home or your local hardware store, you can make a solar panel to demonstrate this photoelectric effect. You can also save energy by converting some of your traditional electrical supply over to solar power.

Things You'll Need

  • One electric stove or hotplate (at least 1100 watts)
  • Sheet metal shears
  • One micro-ammeter (able to read currents between 10 and 50 microamperes)
  • Tap water
  • One 2 liter plastic bottle or glass
  • Safety goggles
  • Two to three tbsps. of table salt
  • 1/2 -foot square sheet of copper flashing
  • Electric drill with sand paper
  • Two alligator clip leads

Harness the Power of the Sun

  • Use sheet metal shears to cut the copper flashing in a square or rectangle to fit the size of the electric burner. Be sure to use a piece of copper flashing that is thoroughly cleaned. You may use sandpaper to thoroughly remove any sign of corrosion before proceeding.

  • Place the copper flashing on the electric burner and turn the burner on. You will need to "cook" the flashing for as long as 30 minutes or more to develop a thick layer of black cupric oxide.

  • Allow the copper to cool slowly once the layer of cupric oxide has formed. It will begin to flake off and may do so with some force as the oxide and the copper cool at different rates.

  • Scrub the completely cooled copper under running water to remove any last remaining bits of oxide. Be gentle, as you do not want to remove any of the red cuprous oxide that has been created in heating the flashing.

  • Cut another piece of copper to the same size. Attach both panels using the alligator clips to the inside of the wide-mouth glass jar or plastic bottle with the top cut off. The panels should not touch and should bend to match the curves of the jar or bottle.

  • Connect the lead of the alligator clip which fastens the clean copper plate to the positive terminal of the meter. The negative terminal should then be connected to the cuprous oxide plate.

  • Make a solution of salt and water by dissolving the salt in hot tap water. You should make enough solution to barely cover the bottom of the plates, leaving the clips high and dry.

  • Place your solar panel in the sun to see the gauge jump to reflect the current your project has created.

Tips & Warnings

  • Use caution when making a solar panel at home, particularly if you are working with children. Wear safety goggles throughout the project.

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