Picture of DIY Solar Panel
Creating a solar panel out of broken re-used solar cell pieces. I ordered a pack of these from http://siliconsolar.com (3$ for a bagful of them - you can order here). In addition, you will need some conductive copper mesh (available at most art stores), glue gun + sticks, a multimeter and a conductive pen (or any sort of conductive brush-on - I got my conductive silver pen here). In this tutorial I will try to explain the best technique I found to connect these broken cells, in order to create your own CHEAP solar panel.
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Step 1: Get the solar cells

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this is how the cells can look like when they arrive

Step 2: Check power and ground

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When you look at the solar cell, make sure you check voltage between the positive side (the back side which is usually grey) and the negative side (which is the black side, with all the lines on it) of each cell. You can simply use a multimeter by placing its leads on the cell itself. This step is crucial, otherwise you'll connect bad cells in the middle of your link, causing the whole panel not to work.

Step 3: Use conductive pen if needed

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You need to make sure that all the tiny little lines in the negative side of the cells are interconnected (a way to gather all the electrons from the surface). This step is not necessary for all cells, only for the ones like in this picture, which don't have any connection between the lines on the surface. you can use the conductive pen to draw a thin line which connects all of them. Once you do that, you will immediately see the voltage rising for that specific cell.

Step 4: Cell with conductive pen line

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here's an example of a cell with the conductive pen line on it, linking between the tiny conductive leads on the negative side of the solar cell.

Step 5: Linking the cells

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This can get a bit tricky, but once you get the hang of it, can be done fast enough. First, some technical notes: In order to get higher voltage, you need to connect two cells in series. This means that the negative part of the first connects to the positive part of the second. As you continue to add more cells in series, you will get a higher voltage from side to side on your solar strip. This is all good, but if your cells are small-ish, they won't generate much amperage. So even if you have a high voltage, you probably won't be able to give it any load (probably will hardly light an LED). In order to get higher amperage through the circuit, you need to connect cells in parallel (positive side to positive side, negative side to negative side). When you do this, make sure the positive and negative leads (copper mesh in this case) don't short themselves out.
I found that the best way to connect between two cells was to use hot glue and some conductive mesh. The mesh is good since it allows light to come through it, and we all love glue guns. So all you need to do is glue the mesh onto the solar cell surface. Its always better to have a longer strip of mesh on the surface, with a big enough shared surface space between the two. Always check with a multimeter that there is connectivity, and that there is voltage coming through. Its a bummer later to try and figure out where the problem is.

Step 6: Example measurement for 2-cell link

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Step 7: Example measurements from a 6-cell link

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This solar array can light an LED when close to the window. (I know... doesn't help much)
But it can definitely charge a battery... (instructable still in the making...)

Step 8: Silicon coating

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I highly recommend applying a silicon coating to your solar array. The cells are so fragile, and the links can easily detach or move out of place. A thin coat of silicon keeps it all in place... and also gives it a very cool effect!

Step 9: Solar Jelly

Picture of Solar Jelly
Here's what i made.
A little Solar Jellyfish. I put a battery and servo motor inside. When there was enough light on it, the object moved its legs up and down just like a jellyfish (video coming very soon...). And when it was dark, it lit up from inside and became a light display.
A bit messy, but still a prototype.
Next iteration coming up real soon.

project page

Step 10: Hope this helped

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Please leave a comment if you have any questions, suggestions or ideas.

Question, does the conductive pen have to be silver?
Also, how do you connect it to anything electrical?

Could you explain the functionality of your last photo? thanks
geekdude5 years ago
ive heard of people pressing rocks and bits of glass bottles and stuff into concrete for sidewalks I but you could do the same thing with these. mix em in with black pebbles and they would look right at home. Then your sidewalk could be generating electricity. you might want to coat them with epoxy  or put them under bits of broken glass because the wair and tair of being a sidewalk might break them down. also you would want to make doubly sure your wireing is right because when the concrete dries you wont be able to fix it.
There's a guy working on this already - but he's taken it to the logical ultimate conclusion: http://www.solarroadways.com/main.html
Also, I read the ``our vision`` thing, their idea for EV`s to recharge in parking lots, we could find a way to make tires conductive, so they leech power off the road.

catdawg4264 years ago
Nice instructable! But I have the same question as george16888. What wattage could we get out of these?
bobtannica5 years ago
Very nice instructable! Clear and informative. I, too, have a question. You are connecting the front(neg) side of one piece to the back(pos) side of the next. What then is the purpose of mounting on the large piece of conductive metal mesh as in your last picture? Wouldn't this short out the circuit? Or were these first coated with silicon and the mesh merely for aesthetics? Again, really enjoyed the instructable and thanks for your time.
mini_pwn5 years ago
 How do you put a silicon coating??

and nice instruct-able you made
alex young5 years ago
hello how is everyone. Can I use ordinary 60/40 solder to solder up my cells together to make a panel
yyyoshiii5 years ago
 yes i second eorges comment. 

if i made say, 1-5 sqr yards of this material (u pick how much), how much light would that produce? i think its a brilliant idea, pls get back to me!

(i live in florida, so plenty of sun)
rpvanpatt7 years ago
I am wondering how much power you can get from something like this. Also, what you could power or charge with it. Thanks
At the equator you get 1000 watts per square yard (approx)@100% E. solar cells are around 15% and if north or south of the equator you get less.
also i was wondering if the power is flowing through the mesh or what? I am new at this but I have an idea that I want to do, but i hafta figure out how it all can work first
Has anyone created a solar device which produces voltages & amperages in the
range of say - 30-40v @ 10amps, or is this just foolish thinking on my part? I live
in the Las Vegas Sunbelt.


You can create whatever voltage you want, and whatever current you want. It's a question of how much surface area, light intensity, and cell efficiency you have. In the desert, you have lots of light, but you still need a pretty large surface area to get that much juice.
mel1215 Zafner6 years ago
By the way the higher the temperature the lower the current in a solar cell.
Ausi3196 years ago
hey how much are the cells How would you charge a 12V battery with a motor running?
it would be nice if you can cut up the solar panels to square shapes of different sizes to be laid as tiles on the floors around the house that face the sun. Clear coating can be applied and resurfaced For a transparent smooth polish. Maybe can be used to power the lights around the garden or probably different led-lited light paths along the floor (to show direction), or even like dimly lited stars path while u are walk on them. crazily ambitious but its a thought. no one thought it was possible to get to the moon either.. ;)
chippy157 years ago
if u live in an apt., could u put let's say 500 of thos sized panels on a piece of paper and duct tape to the railing?? could it still work??
1oooop7 years ago
why not epoxy... like max CLR(on ebay)... well it isn't flexible... but it does protect from the weather if you plan to use the solar panel outside... and it looks cool with the silicon encased inside... and little children can't peel the silicon off... (0.o) (++)
sandiemom7 years ago
I just stumbled into this site and it is absolutely amazing! My son is in 4th grade and this project seems like something he could enter in our homeschool science fair. We have never 'played' with solar before but this has really tweaked our science passion. Thanks and Kudos!
george168888 years ago
Hello There, I am very impressed with what you have achieved. Can you tell us, for 3 dollar worth of solar cells, how much power could we expect to get out of the finished system? Would it be more than 1 or 2 watt under bright sun light? Thanks George