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!
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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.
bird123457 (author) 2 years ago
If you liked this instructable please remember to vote for me in the green design contest!!
Bab132 years ago
What a nifty invention, very clever! I love your projects!
bird123457 (author)  Bab132 years ago
Aww! Thank you!!
joventinov1 month ago

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

mbalentović4 months ago
This is not even wrong!
tfinch21 year ago
That will not charge a phone, terrible instructions. you need at least 5 volts 500 ma to initiate a charge with any smart phone today. Get off instructables.

You're essentially charging two devices, the external backup battery and your phone, at the same time. This instructable explains what kind of charge controller and power is required to perform this task and give constant phone charge even under non-ideal conditions:http://www.instructables.com/id/DIY-Solarpad-Kit-...

None of what you just said makes sense.

I'm telling you what's the minimum requirements to solar charge a phone effectively and reliably. It's not just the Volts and Amps, it's how the power is managed and stored.

This instructables does not mention anything to do with storing any solar energy, the creator hooks up a tiny solar panel to a USB port which people will try to make and plug their IPhone into and it will not charge because the amperage is too low (due to the physical size of the solar cell) and the voltage may be too high from the solar cell ( which could damage the phones charging circuit) due to the minimal information warnings etc...

I believe I understand what you're trying to say, that maybe that solar cell may have enough juice to run the phone but not charge the battery at the same time. But since the USB specification was released and since phones started to use USB chargers they need around 500ma 0.5 amps at 5 volts to initiate a charge as the charging circuits are IC controlled.
cheezyguy5 tfinch211 months ago

Technically, you can initiate a charge at as low as 0.05 amps (50ma) AS LONG AS the voltage is between 4.4-5.7 volts. That is the widest recommended input voltage range. Do not exceed 5.7 under any circumstances, ESPECIALLY if you have a cheap phone with a horrible regulator, It'll make the battery puff up and explode.

How much current does your panel output? It doesnt seem like it would output a lot
linuxman121 year ago
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 ?
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.
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.
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?
eorecchia2 years ago
great idea - brilliant execution - keep them coming Bird
eorecchia2 years ago
Great idea nd brilliant execution - keep them coming Bird
phwphw2 years ago
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)
horse1234572 years ago
Excellent idea, very well explained and those photos are sharp.
robo103022 years ago
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)  robo103022 years ago
You can pick them up at radio shack or maplin.
Where did you get your usb port?
bird123457 (author)  awsomepicwinner2 years ago
You could probably pick one up at radioshack for 2 bucks, or at maplin (UK only)
holidayv2 years ago
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?
spek142 years ago
I can't seem to find one with voltage adjustable can you send me a link
bird123457 (author)  spek142 years ago
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!
spek142 years ago
How much did you get your panel for and where
bird123457 (author)  spek142 years ago
I am sure you could get one from RadioShack for about $7.00, I got mine from Amazon for a similar price.
Schmidty162 years ago
cool whered u get the panel
bird123457 (author)  Schmidty162 years ago
Mine came from a solar kit but I am pretty sure you can buy them on amazon.
emms2 years ago
Thats cool but what is it with you and the Altoids?!
bird123457 (author)  emms2 years ago
Altoids tins are awesome for projects!