Instructables
I wanted to make my own solar panels for a long time. This week I finally got the chance. I learnt a lot from youtube videos and instructables website, but most panels were made of glass, wood and epoxy resins. I realized it was too much effort for cheap rejected solar sells picked up from ebay. 

So I decided I had to use polycarbonate or acrylic sheet for the job. I heard stories about acrylic sheets melting in heat, solar cells getting destroyed by moisture etc. But I still decided to go ahead with it because it was the simplest, strongest and safest encapsulation I could think of. 

The panel cost me around $35 to pack 22 3"x6" cells (.5V x 3A x 22 = 33W). The whole setup can be folded and connected in different ways to charge Li-Ion, SLA or NiMH Battery packs.
 
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Step 1: Things needed

Solar cells: Picked from ebay. 40 3x6 cells with tabbing wire - $40
Optix Acrylic sheet: $28 (32x44inch sheet) cut into 4 - 16x8 sheet and one 1 16x12 sheet. Picked this one up from Lowes and they were kind enough to cut it for free. Thanks Lowes!
Silicone sealant - $6 (This one is from GE and is flexible, clear and cures in 24 hrs)
Rubber electrical tape (optional).
Small 3/8" tile spacers ($2 for a pack of 100).
Some wires.

epierce2 years ago
I had some issues using plexiglass that it would warp and damage the cells.
A good instructable though!
psullivan12 years ago
Thanks for the instructable. I have made some larger solar panels, and the tile spacers are a good idea.

I'm a glass glazier, and have some thoughts. Plexiglass will eventually yellow and become brittle if left to the weather. Another issue is the it will not bond well with silicone. It appears to have worked for you though :)

Thanks for sharing your knowledge.
mayankbhatia (author)  psullivan12 years ago
Thanks for the feedback. I didnt know there is a product like weld on. And it is perhaps cheaper than silicone. It wouldnt hurt to use both. I did a lot of searching and yellowing and the more I read the more confused I got. The acrylic sheet I used from optix says it is UV resistant and prevents from getting yellow, only time will tell.

My problem with glass was that heat resistant glass is expensive and difficult to find and the ones you get at Lowes/Home depot might crack if they are hot and exposed to sudden rain.
psullivan12 years ago
I was just thinking about the plexiglass issue. There is a product called weld on. It causes plexiglass to actually melt together. Using this with a strip of plexiglass along the edges as a filler would solve that problem.