Instructables

How can I cut silicon solar cells to custom sizes?

I bought 100 silicon wafer solar cells and I would like to be able to cut them to custom sizes... does anyone here have experience/ a method for doing this? Ive tried scribing them like glass, grinding, slicing...ect, and nothing works.

Silicon cells are not AMORPHOUS. They are not like glass. How can they be cut with DIY tools?


karnuvap4 years ago
How big are they?

Are they too big to cut with a dremel disc?

I think this should be 'gentle' enough surely but it is obviously not much use if you want to cut huge panels.
Solaron2 years ago
Hello all I'm new to this post but came across it and couldn't help but share my experiment with you. Well, here's a thinking outside the box idea that may or may not be applicable to your projects. What i did twas to first encase a 3 x 6 cell in casting resin 1/8 inch thick maybe a bit thicker. I was then able to use my mitter saw to cut whatever size i wanted without cracking or damaging other parts of the cell in any way. I was able to cut one cell into two parts each producing .5V. In my experiment i even had the tabbing wire soldered in place so it was exposed after the resin set, cut the cell vertically, not horizontally. Since i've done that, my mind has been racing thinking of possible projects to do. You can get UV protected clear acrylic to paint on or spray on the finished cells to help them last longer from turning yellow or fading. You can adhere the finished cells to any surface by any means and if one breaks, you can simply solder another one in it's palce. It's like an adjustable solar panel. Hope someone else like the idea.
nepheron (author)  Solaron2 years ago
I really like this method, you or I should make an ible. This is an example of very ingenious thinking!
Nephron, I took along time to repost but i took a little break from solar panels while i explored different solar cell encasing options. I added an image of a rather small 6.75v .400 amp panel i am making using the epoxy resin method i wrote about before. This panel is not done but i wanted to post it so i can show cutting solar cells can be done rather easily when encased. It's actually smaller than the picture shows...just under 2 feet long and no more than probably 12 inches wide; looks huge in the picture. I was very surprised at the current produced with his method as these were connected in a series which should have only increased the voltage and not the amperage output but I'm not complaining! I am now looking at cutting a single cell into four small individual cells which I will post when complete. The object here is to create an 18-20v panel that is rediculously small. The smaller the panel, the less materials needed/less cost. Hope you like the concept.
I'm glad you liked it. I will have to keep you posted on the project I will be starting soon, using this method. I started working with solar panels almost a year ago and now I'm always trying think of new ways to improve upon the first panel I made. I have some really cool things I've done and would love to post some pics for all to see. Looks like this post has all but been abandoned though? Maybe we can breath new life into it.
moris_zen2 years ago
Here is my failed attempt...
2012-09-21 17.30.32.jpg2012-09-21 17.31.38.jpg2012-09-21 19.17.54.jpg2012-09-21 19.00.04.jpg2012-09-21 17.30.26.jpg2012-09-21 19.00.11.jpg2012-09-21 19.12.01.jpg
corruptcom3 years ago
I make small custom panels so I cut them all the time.
While a laser scribe will work perfectly fine they are priced beyond the average home experimenter.
the way I cut them is with a carbide scribe.
you will have to experiment with a few scraps first to get the feel of the scribe.
But once that is done you can make a jig to hold the wafers and with a template you should be able to make perfect cells with very little scrap.
In fact what scrap I do make gets sized to a smaller cell for other projects.
One note on cells: monocrystalline cuts the best but polycrystalline cut almost as good. However the string drawn or linear ribbon pull are doable but scrap rates are about 40% all the others is below 10%. I don't know why but the ribbon cells just don't cut very well. Its not their thickness as i first thought but our stock ran out recently and i had to purchase new. man they are giving the watts away about 40 cents a watt at auction. I picked up 400 watts of the 6x6 mono's and they took about a half an hour to get used too they are also as thin as the ribbon approx .009" and as with the thin a very light scribe was required.
I do have one complaint with these new cells I have found I MUST scribe along the crystals internal grain. The manufacturer placed the grid pattern 45deg to the collector grid. They didn't have to do that and that may not be the case as I have only cut up 4 wafers so far, but all four were 45deg to grid... not random.
Good luck have fun scribes cost 2 bucks on ebay and before you go all out practice before you buy 1000 cells and find out you don't have the touch.

A fine continuous gentile shallow scribe.
P.S. it is nothing like cutting glass.

Starrgratt Radio.
seen them for 8$ inc ship not 2$ .
I tried with the round diamond cutter used for glass but it just smashed everything to very small pieces.
Thank you for the Carbide scribe idea. I didn't have a carbide scribe handy, but I did have a wide selection of carbide drill bits. Using the carbide drill bit to scratch a line in the cell worked great, thanks!
sudarshan2 years ago
I constructed a mini table top saw using a flatbed scanner : You can see the video here : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PmdaVf0kplE
The instuctable is in the links on youtube page
raishikoh2 years ago
Hello

I have been given a task to suggest solar cell sizes, that are needed to be laminated with a newly invented structured glass, in order to test its useful effects on the solar cells.

The questions in my mind are:

What type of solar cells shell I select?
What sizes shell I suggest?
Any other notable things that I might consider while suggesting the cells...
dufferdev4 years ago
Hi,

I have similar question. I want to cut solar cells (and not solar panels) to custom size. I have attached a pic of the solar cell I have. The details of the cells are as follows:
Average Power (Watts): 1.75 Wp
Average Current (Amps): 3.5 Imax
Average Voltage (Volts): 0.5 Vmax
Thickness = 200 micron = 0.2 mm
Exact dimension: 3 1/4 inches x 6 inches, or 80 mm by 150 mm
Weight: Just above 6 grams, or 0.2 oz.

I want to cut the solar cells to provide me following output:

VOC - 0.5V
IOC - 2 Amps
Power - 1 W

Kindly guide me how can this be done.

Thanks
dufferdev
yhst-47622753992943_2088_298914.jpeg
Hi, Dufferdev, to cut solar cell into customed-size, you can use laser scriber. The laser scribes solar cell, than you can break solar cell off with hand along the scribed kerf. The chip kerf is smooth and level.

To get the required voltage/current/power, you will need not only a laser scriber, but also other testing devices.

Choye Laser
Donna.
rcisneros3 years ago
Wow. There are sure a lot of questions for answering a question.

Anyway, other than the solution that bellazhao offers, NONE of the solutions work cleanly. Some work better than others.

The Dremel - Yeah, no. What happens is the Dremel makes tiny little chips all along the cut. Each on of those chips is a potential short. You might smooth them out some, but your going to loose some voltage. Depending on how much you care, you may be okay with the drop.

Plama Torch - Nope. As it cuts it melts the edge so the front and the back touch at several places so there are just tons of shorts.

Diamond cutting - It could work, but the skill level to make it work is pretty high. The speeds tend to shatter little pieces that make chips... refer to the dremel problem.

*Fracture/Snaping - It again could work. You make your mark(score) and snap. Make it too shallow and you make confetti. Push to hard and pulverize your cell. If you can do it though, this can give you clean cells.

*Shears - Sounds silly, but they are thin enough. It's the easiest. You just cut like paper. Use oversize shears or scissors as you want the shallowest angle for your cut. Too step and you'll make confetti. You will still have a lot that shatter, but a surprising number survive. You'll probably have to buff the edge a bit.

I can't comment on that whole crystal lattice/jewelers technique as I have no experience with it. Sounds difficult though.
bellazhao3 years ago
there is professional machine for cutting solar cell- laser scribing machine, it can cut 156mm or 125mm's cells into any custom sizes.
and any questions you can email to me: bellazhao@yuemaolaser.com
MSN: juliazhaoke@live.cn
SKYPE: bellazhaoke
conntaxman3 years ago
will a plasma cutter cut a 3x6 solar cell?
Tks
John
adsala3 years ago
This my first post but I have an fairly good solution. I use one of those cheap table top tile saws you can buy at the hardware store. I made a plastic slider to set the cell on. Set the fence to the desired position. Then gently run the cell through the diamond blade. My tile cutter uses water and a diamond saw. You will loose the part of the cell that is the width of the blade. The cut comes out a little rough so I gently sand th edge on a table top belt sander with fine grit. I would not use this method for real production runs but it works great for prototyping and what not. I have cut about 300 cells with this method. You will loose a few cells so be gentle. I found that you can recut the broken cells into even smaller ones and use those too.
phar4 years ago
so, ive got some plain silicon solar cells i bought from parallax, i dont know if youve got the same kind i have or anyhing, but theyre almost paper thin and essentially just very thin glass slices..

if your splitting these ive got some good news and some bad news.. the good news is that you can cut these but you need to figure out which way the crystal lattice was grown.. which leads me to the bad news, to find out your going to have to break a cell and see along which lines it tends to shatter..

once youve figured this out you can cut the cells by using a very very sharp razor blade and repeatedly slicing over a line along the crystal lattice, once youve got a good line scored in you should be able to gently fold along this line and the cell will snap..

i cannot stress how lightly you should be pressing with the razor, if you press too hard in a spot while scoring your panel may shatter in other directions along the lattice.. potentially leaving you with tiny squares


i know its an old thread, but i thought i would just add my two cents.
This is the kind of thing I mean
http://www.stonepolishing.co.uk/product-4%20inch%20trim%20saw-1401.htm
nepheron (author)  steveastrouk4 years ago
That may work, but it just seems that it would destroy the cells. They are so thin... it might be like cutting tissue paper on a band saw.
If it were me, I'd wax them onto another, thicker, glass carrier.

Steve
I'd be inclined to try a wet diamond blade like they use for cutting stone specimens. The blades are only 0.020" thick

How do they fail when you try and cut them ? Crystalline cells will be very very brittle.

Steve
nepheron (author)  steveastrouk4 years ago
When I scribe them and try to break them like glass, they start breaking in a straight line. But only after a couple cm, the fracture gets terribly distracted and meanders all over the cell before popping out the other end. so far it's been 100% failure. All the cells invariably turn to solar confetti!

If it means anything, the cells tend to fracture like some kind of miniature layered fiberglass. Think of the cells like plywood made from super delicate silicon CRYSTALS.
Pretty well what you'd expect from the poly cells. Diamond saw is the only way I can see.