As the title says this instructable demonstrates how to solder individual solar cells together in preparation for building a solar panel.

First i need to give a few disclaimers:

1. Soldering irons are hot and will burn you if you are not careful. If you do not know how to solder you will need to learn how to first before attempting this project.
2. You need to have and understanding of basic electricity before attempting to work with solar panels. If you do not have this understanding have some one help you that does.
3. Tab wire and solar cells have sharp edges, they can cut you, be careful.

Now that the warnings are out of the way lets look at the items you will need. In the 2 pictures the items have a description of what each item is, but hear is also a list:

1.Soldering iron, there are many soldering irons out there but these are the ones I recommend:

A. Budget iron, it will get the job done but there are better and easier irons to use. Found Here

B. Mid range, its a little bulky but heavy duty and works well. Found Here

C. Top line, this is my most recommended. This one can be used all day and never quit. Found Here

2. Soldering iron stand
3. 2mm tabbing wire- pre solder coated. Found Here

4. 5mm tabbing wire- pre solder coated. Found Here

5. scissors. Found Here

6. ruler. Found Here

7. holding tool. Found Here

8. solder pen, Found Here

9. solder paste- only used to tin the solder iron. Found Here

10. solder wire- only used to tin the solder iron. Found Here

11. solar cells, this is an example of the kind of cells i work with. Found Here

12. electrical tape - not pictured. Found Here

Some of these components can be purchased in packages. Take some time and decide what size of panel or number of panels you are going to build and try to find a package with the amount of components you will need. Here are some examples: Package 1Package 2Package 3

Step 1: Jigs

After you have all the items needed i recommend making 2 jigs, this will make things easier and faster.

The first jig is to hold the solar cells while soldering. I made this from a piece of scrap wood and some small nails. I laid out a few of the solar cells on the board and marked places to put the nails. Make sure you put the nails in places that when you are soldering that they do not get in the way of your solder iron. Make sure that the solar cells can easily slide in and out of your nails, solar cells are very brittle and break easily. The board i am using is large enough to put 4 solar cells in a row on it.

The second jig is used to make the tabbing wires for the solar cells. It is a piece of 3/8" x 6" black pipe. The outside diameter of a 3/8 pipe is a little more than 1/2". When using 1" solar cells i use tab wires that are 1 3/4" long. When you wrap the wire around the 3/8" pipe it comes out close enough to what I need(1/2"pipe o.d. x 3.14= 1.57"+ any slack deviations). I milled a slot down one side so one of the scissor blades could fit through it. At the end closest to the drill I welded a small piece of round stock in it that will fit into the drill chuck. I use the drill to wind the 2mm tab wire around it, then I use the scissors and cut the wire through the slot. You need to hold or tape the tab wire when cutting or it will unwind and make the wrong size tab wires. After cutting the tab wires you need to flatten them out. See the pictures for more information.

When setting up a work area I highly recommend good ventilation. When soldering you will make some smoke and fumes, you do not want to breath these in. I used some old computer fans, a circuit board soldering stand, dryer vent duct, cardboard, and duct tape. Look at the captions on the pictures.

The cells which I have are too small how to tab them
<p>p { margin-bottom: 0.25cm; direction: ltr; color: rgb(0, 0, 0); line-height: 120%; }p.western { font-family: &quot;Times New Roman&quot;,serif; font-size: 12pt; }p.cjk { font-family: &quot;Times New Roman&quot;,serif; font-size: 12pt; }p.ctl { font-family: &quot;Times New Roman&quot;,serif; font-size: 12pt; }</p><p>Apropos<br>of nothing I purchased a bunch of the dodgy ebay solar cells. I<br>wasn&rsquo;t expecting anything flash but the do the job fine, When it<br>comes to soldering them it is a bit problematic of course. The<br>solder strip is probably something akin to silver which has long<br>since tarnished and won&rsquo;t solder reliably. The solution :- Rust<br>converter. Also comes in the form of Navy Jelly. Rust converter<br>itself is available in two forms. One a watery liquid the other a<br>type of varnish. You want the liquid form. Rust converter is<br>phosphoric acid. Shock horror acid on electronics. Don&rsquo;t panic<br>stay calm. Don&rsquo;t go crazy with it just smear enough to do the job<br>on the metal strip and solder in the usual way.. I use a small soft<br>art brush. Clean up with soap and water and finish off with clear<br>water. demineralized if you have it. Rust converter is good for<br>cleaning PC boards for etching , reconnecting old wire and cleaning<br>just about anything that won&rsquo;t solder. Works on nickel and chrome<br>as well as for treating rusted steel.</p><p>If<br>you don&rsquo;t have any rust converter on hand use coco cola. It is rust<br>converter with added sugar. </p>
<p>I have seen various tutorials online about soldering solar cells, but this was well written and easy to follow!</p><p>Thanks</p>
<p>is it possible to solder the tab and the solar cells with a smd hot air gun?</p>
Nice Kale, <br>I am quite happy that you are the first that has given a good explanation why get to 36 cells. I have readed lots of smoke on 32 to 40 cells grids arrangements, with comments of heating circuits. <br>Since you are in the Electronic community, have you experimented underload that your circuit would be more efficient with a 38 cells. i.e. 38 cells = 18v x 63% eff. will give a clean 11.9V underload (multimeter reading will boost this value by 37%). <br> <br>Enjoy your testings, I am up to making a wave generator instead of purchasing one ($$$$), I will post my gadget when completed. <br> <br>Cheers!
where can I get quality solar cells? plz reply.
i get all of mine off ebay, its the only place i know that i can get parts at a reasonable price. the only problem is it takes a few weeks to get them because they come from china.
do you have any ebay site links that I could browse for prices? I'm not sure what to search for? 1x6 solar cells unbroken?
I just type in &quot;solar cells&quot; and start looking at what is available. do some price comparing. i always buy untabbed cells because they are cheaper, but sometimes there are cells that are short tabbed or full tabbed available. those will save you soldering time, if they were soldered correctly from the person you are getting them from.
Do you have any pictures of your second jig being used? The milled slot piece of black iron pipe chucked into a drill. I don't think I am quite following what you are doing with just the text description. <br> <br>I have a whole bunch of solar cells out of dead garden path lights that I am thinking about trying to make a panel out of.
i added several new pictures, i hope this makes it much more clear how to use the pipe jig that i was showing/ talking about. <br> <br>if you are going to use the garden path light cells you will not be using them the same way i have shown in this instructable. my recommendation for these cells that are already encapsulated is to take them out on a good sunny day and get the voltage reading from each one. then you need to wire in series to the point of about 18 volts (on a multimeter) for a 12 volt system. it would take several (possibly 100's) of those small cells to make a decent amount of power, but it will produce some power. i have a few of these also that i was playing with last summer.
Thanks for the extra photos. They help a lot making sense of the text for me. I'm curious if you couldn't use a plain piece of pipe and just cut along the top with a straight edge and a razor blade? Sure it would be tough on the blade edge, but sometimes you have to do what you can do. Might help to paste a strip of paper or gray cardboard up there or something? Not everyone has a milling machine they can slot pipe with. I mean I do, but I realize most don't. <br> <br>The electronics in those garden lights must be pretty good because they can sort of charge up 1.5 volt AA batteries. Otherwise a dozen would get 18 volts. I guess I'm just going to have to walk through lots of folks yards at night to gather up that many! ha ha just kidding.

About This Instructable




Bio: I have been an industrial electrician for almost 10 years. This is why many of my projects are electrical related. I am working on a ... More »
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