Introduction: Altoids Smalls Solar Powered USB Charger

Picture of Altoids Smalls Solar Powered USB Charger

This instructable will teach you how to make your very own solar powered USB charger out of an Altoids Smalls tin. It is an eco-friendly way to conserve energy. The Solar Panel I am using for this project has a dial on it so you can chose your output number of volts, therefore I am able to use it for a wide range of electronics depending on how many volts they take to charge. Not only can you use this to charge your phones/IPods on the go, but you can also connect LEDs, fans and basically any thing that comes with a USB connector. I hope you enjoy this instructable and please remember to favorite and vote!

Step 1: Drilling the Hole

Picture of Drilling the Hole

Using an 8mm drill bit drill a single hole at one end of the tin. 

Step 2: Getting the Solar Panel Ready

Picture of Getting the Solar Panel Ready

Next you need to connect your solar panel to two wires. In this picture the green wire is the positive wire and the white wire is the negative wire.

Step 3: Before Attaching the Solar Panel

Picture of Before Attaching the Solar Panel

Before attaching the solar panel to the outside of the tin, place some electrical tape on the surface where you are going to stick down the solar panel. This will prevent the circuit from shorting out.

Step 4: Glue Down the Solar Panel

Picture of Glue Down the Solar Panel

Next, glue down the solar panel on top of the square of electrical tape.

Step 5: The Wires

Picture of The Wires

Take the wires attached to the solar panel and pull them through the hole you drilled.

Step 6: Completing the Circuit

Picture of Completing the Circuit

Next, solder your USB entrance port and the wires from the solar panel together in the correct manner. I am not going to go into too much depth with this step because lots of the USB entrance ports are different and the wires need to be soldered on differently.

Step 7: Cutting the Opening

Picture of Cutting the Opening

Using a Dremel or another rotary tool, cut out an opening in the side where your USB entrance port will go. In order for the charger to function when closed you will need to cut out your opening very low.

Step 8: Putting USB Entrance Port in Place

Picture of Putting USB Entrance Port in Place

The next step is to glue the USB entrance port in place. I used hot glue and it stayed firmly in place, although in the photo it looks a little messy. After, I did clean it up using adhesive remover around the edges as to not interfere with the rest of the project.

Step 9: Finished

Picture of Finished

There you have it! Your very own, eco-friendly, solar powered USB charger! 


bird123457 (author)2013-05-21

If you liked this instructable please remember to vote for me in the green design contest!!

Bab13 (author)2013-05-17

What a nifty invention, very clever! I love your projects!

bird123457 (author)Bab132013-05-17

Aww! Thank you!!

out-of-the-box (author)2013-10-05

How much current does your panel output? It doesnt seem like it would output a lot

by my calculations, a 1 square inch solar panel produces about 0.55 volts and 0.66 amps.

joventinov (author)2015-06-24

soo cool pls help me how to do it for my thesis pls..

mbalentović (author)2015-03-26

This is not even wrong!

linuxman12 (author)2013-09-23

my Solar Panel have a max 6.6 out voltage when the sun is strong.
Is safe for my phone, or i have risk of burn ?

stilcrazychris (author)2013-06-25

This is not a very good instructions if I don't know what to solder the USB entrance port and the wires from the solar panel together in the correct manner. Should give a part # from radio shack or something. It would of been a great Instryctable if u had done that.

stilcrazychris (author)2013-06-25

This is not a very good instructions if I don't know what to solder the USB entrance port and the wires from the solar panel together in the correct manner. Should give a part # from radio shack or something.

BrownDogGadgets (author)2013-06-15

What kind of output does your solar cell put out? For such a small cell, it seems to me that it would take weeks to charge up a phone. (I'm guessing thats 6V at 80mA based on size.)

I'm also guessing that you're having problem problems getting this thing to work with iPhones 4S, 4, and 3GS models. You need to provide power to the data tabs of the USB port in order to get them to work.

Anyways, any chance you can throw up some photos of your setup in action?

eorecchia (author)2013-05-28

great idea - brilliant execution - keep them coming Bird

eorecchia (author)2013-05-28

Great idea nd brilliant execution - keep them coming Bird

phwphw (author)2013-05-27

Outstanding work Elizabeth! I'd like to make one of these with you on Martha' s Vineyard this summer. Let's bring all the parts and do this! Hopefully there will be a lot of sun there in August! Again, nice work -- I definitely voted for you! Uncle Peter (in New Canaan)

horse123457 (author)2013-05-27

Excellent idea, very well explained and those photos are sharp.

robo10302 (author)2013-05-20

hey!i luv ur project and am looking forward to make it.but can u please tell me where u brought the usb port?..thanks in advance

bird123457 (author)robo103022013-05-20

You can pick them up at radio shack or maplin.

awsomepicwinner (author)2013-05-19

Where did you get your usb port?

You could probably pick one up at radioshack for 2 bucks, or at maplin (UK only)

holidayv (author)2013-05-19

what is the power output of the solar panel? One that small cannot put out much even with direct sunlight. What about a blocking diode to prevent the panel from discharging your device in the event of cloud cover?

spek14 (author)2013-05-13

I can't seem to find one with voltage adjustable can you send me a link

bird123457 (author)spek142013-05-13

I got mine a few years ago and just realised they don't stock them anymore, SUPER SORRY, but I found this DC to DC power module, its small enough to fit in the altoids tin and it literally does the same thing as my solar panel but you have to actually attach it to the panel because you buy it separately. It can take 3.5v~26.5v and it has an output of 5v~28v. Here is the link:

If you have anymore questions please feel free to ask me!

spek14 (author)2013-05-12

How much did you get your panel for and where

bird123457 (author)spek142013-05-12

I am sure you could get one from RadioShack for about $7.00, I got mine from Amazon for a similar price.

Schmidty16 (author)2013-05-09

cool whered u get the panel

bird123457 (author)Schmidty162013-05-11

Mine came from a solar kit but I am pretty sure you can buy them on amazon.

emms (author)2013-05-07

Thats cool but what is it with you and the Altoids?!

bird123457 (author)emms2013-05-08

Altoids tins are awesome for projects!

About This Instructable




Bio: I love crafts, technology and anything to do with inventing!
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