Instructables
Picture of Make a Solar Panel using Diodes!
So, solar panels are made of silicon...diodes are made of silicon.  Have you ever wondered if diodes conduct current induced by light?  Sure you have, and so have I, so let's experiment and make a solar panel using 1N4148 (run-of-the-mill) diodes.   This is just a brief instructable, as the full construction is left up to you, intrepid reader, as a fun project. 

Check out the video below to see how much voltage you can get from just four diodes.


 
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Step 1: Silicon Diode

Picture of Silicon Diode
diode pile.jpg

A silicon diode is a two-lead semiconductor that gates current flow in one direction.  The symbol below shows how a diode is lined up with the schematic symbol.  The image was taken from http://www.gadgetjq.com/single_fire_tach_adapter_diode.jpg for copyright purposes.  Diodes are used in circuits that convert AC voltages to DC voltages, and also as voltage regulators, clamps, and multipliers.

Current flows in the direction of the arrow.  A few other terms of technical use are:

Forward-biased is when the anode is more positive than the cathode, and reverse-bias is the opposite:  the anode is made more negative in voltage than the cathode.

There are different kinds of diodes, too.  Pin diodes, germanium diodes, schottky diodes, rectifier diodes (p-n junction diodes) name most of them.  In this instructable we're going to work with silicon-based pin diodes, although if you're really curious I'd encourage you trying the different kinds of diodes to see how it all shakes out.

Diodes are pretty cheap.  You can pick up a pack of 50 from Radio Shack for around $3.






 

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yhdesai1 month ago

u said u used 50 diode
what was voltage and ampere generated

FetterChiller4 months ago

It's a nice project.
I wanted to add it here, because nobody actually wrote anything about it (and some ppl might be confused by it!):
No, this is not a cheap or convenient method of creating electric power!
The amount of silicon used in diodes is very small and it is not specialized for creating electron flow from photons. You will go way cheaper (in means of Energy per dollar) and way more efficient (in means of space, time, components) if you just use solar cells.
My theory for the seeming limit of 100mV is, that every diode has a voltage drop of 0.5V as well, so this might be a border-effect, which wears of, as soon as you reach 0.1V... Not sure about it though.

nevdull (author)  FetterChiller3 months ago

Hi,

Thanks for your comments. I agree with you: diode energy harvesting can't compare to composite solar cells. This is definitely for exploring. As for the limit of 100mV, keep in mind that depending on the electron sinks and sources between the P and N junctions, you can well get diodes with voltage drops as little as 0.3 using a Germanium diode...but as far as I know, that's about it.

Thanks for the comment!

value power plz
Raymond_Yj7 months ago

its because of the light source or the heat?? Any other powerful diode that i can use besides 4148? i would appreciate if u have the complete circuit diagram for this project.

kdorji3 years ago
I am not able to go beyond 4 to 5 diode connected in series and i was able to get 100 to 150mV. But going beyond that numbers of series connections i saw voltage drops to below 100mV which is confusing. Please let me know how to increase it to usable Voltage level..or give me website to refer.

Regards
sarvesh7 kdorji7 months ago

every diode causes voltage drop

dpeek kdorji2 years ago
lost of power converted to heat.
sarvesh79 months ago

actually i m new here

sarvesh79 months ago

i m very confused... can u please tell me exactly what we have to use , pn junction zener diode or silicon based diode ?

great!
nevdull (author)  argha halder1 year ago
thanks!
mirzaman1 year ago
thanks for join me.
DIVYA GARG2 years ago
I think you have used pn-juction zener diode .............Can I use a simple pn-juction diode . I mean as looks in this picture............
nevdull (author)  DIVYA GARG2 years ago
Yes, I believe you should be able to.
Good luck!
robot13983 years ago
by connecting diodes in series or parallel is there any difference in voltage
dpeek robot13982 years ago
connecting them in series will increase the voltage, while connecting them in parallel will increase the current.
zis34853 years ago
Hello sir..It's an awesome project....I am very interesting about this project and want to make one for me. You write "You could add in capacitors....throw in an op amp or even a charge pump and turn mV into V. " but I am very new here and don't know how do I do it. Can you please give me a diagram? Thank you
macman8084 years ago
what you need to do is add a joule thief to the circuit. because then you have 3 volts >:-)
Good Idea .... May i have circuit diagram please or the web site where i can go though for it?
nevdull (author)  macman8084 years ago
That's an interesting thought. :) There are some charge pumps that operate on a very low voltage and if a joule thief circuit could boost to 3V, the charge pump could easily make that 6V or 9V, although I think the current would severely suffer. Thanks for the comment!
yes the current would suffer but if it didn't, some charge pumps can turn 3v into 12v and then you just need an inverter to make that 240v.
nevdull (author)  macman8084 years ago
I bought five 3", 5", and 7" LCDs at dirtcheap prices the other week from my local surplus electronics shop and put together a few CFL inverters for the backlights, but much to my chagrin it still required a -24V on VLED and all the charge pumps I was willing to buy (ie not over $5) couldn't invert more than 10-12V *and* perform a boost (although I saw a few more expensive ones that could and found a nice voltage tripler pump), but figured how to string them together to get

Vout = 2D - (2 * Vin)

I wonder, though, how much of an AC  voltage swing you'd get if you're pushing, say, 10 uA.  Sadly, I'm not sure it could even meet the charge pumps Iin requirements.  It would be interesting to see if you could get 120 or 240 VAC from it, though. 

dsandds20033 years ago
It is kinda funny....in the 80's i used to scrap out old tobe radios for copper ans other metals. I found that those old selenium rectifers also produced electricity when exposed to light. I used to 4 or 5 volts from 3 or 4 of them hooked togather. But back then their wasn't much use for these electricity producers.
Foe those of you who do not know what these are, they were square pices of metal. Usually about 3" by 3" and about 1/32" thick. They were stacked with spacers between the plates and anywhere between 6 and 10 plates per rectifer. Now you can replace then with 1n4004 diodes.
Dave
beehard443 years ago
how many volts did you get in the PCB panel?
nevdull (author)  beehard443 years ago
with my configuration I was only able to raise a few hundred millivolts. :-\
ljsggh2n773 years ago
I believe that it is so far out and crazie that is just beautiful man!!!!!!! Cheers!
nevdull (author)  ljsggh2n773 years ago
hey thanks!
Cheers!
drresearch4 years ago
This is great,
I used only 2 zener diodes (I think 5v, but not sure) and got up to 2 V in parallel and even 3 V in series, though I did not manage to light up an LED. But I am planning to try buying more of these diodes and making a whole PCB full of them or something and see how much power I can get. I'll let you know.
nevdull (author)  drresearch4 years ago
That's awesome! I'll be curious to know if you ever manage to light up that LED. Keep us posted on your progress and feel free to post any schematics/pics/etc to this instructable.
Cheers,
/nev/dull
Well, I am sorry that I took so long, but finally I tried and bad news, with about 20 diodes in series or parallel the voltage is not even as much as I had got before (I am afraid they might sold me slightly different diodes in the shop, there they make confusion sometimes). I might try again, but not very soon, perhaps in a few weeks.
nevdull (author)  drresearch4 years ago
No problem. Too bad it didn't source more voltage. Maybe a new design might help if you're tinkering out with it again! It's always fun to try new setups, I think. Thanks for the post!
Well, I forgot to mention that the diodes had to be almost touching the light source (I used a 15watt CFL bulb), so perhaps it's not that great, but I will still try. I'll also post a picture most probably.
onesuperdon4 years ago
lol, it neva crossed my mind that a zena diode could be used to generate current :P but it makes perfect sense since it does contail n-type & p-typ semiconductors. I have so many of them at home, so gonna start as soon as I get there! Yay, excitement ^_^
8v924 years ago
This is a good use for clear glass diodes found on discarded circut boards in older computers and other devices. The semicondutor junction will only convert a small part of the visable spectrum to electrical current because of the band gap potential of the PN junction. So a diode or infared LED will have a peak output in red light , a green LED will only output in blue light , a blue LED output in ultraviolet light . It takes red, green and blue light to produce white light so a white LED has an output voltage of about 3 volts in full sunlight because it can convert most of the visable spectrum. The output current of a single diode or LED is too small to power anything however if an electrolytic capacitor (2000 mfd 10vdc) is connected for several hours in full sunlight a small amount of energy can be collected. For maximum output the diode or LED must be aimed at the light source and any size large capacitor will work.
E_MAN4 years ago
how many volts did you generate with the pcb shown? I would like to charge a 12v lead acid battery, I would like to know if it is remotely possible.
nevdull (author)  E_MAN4 years ago
i generated a couple hundred mV but there are other configurations that could probably get you more. however, i dont think it would have the current to push as a recharger unless you used some intermediary caps or something, or again, changed the configuration of parallel and serial connections.
E_MAN nevdull4 years ago
ok, thanks. I did some calculations, and it was not very efficient, but a good idea anyways. :D
chriskarr E_MAN4 years ago
May I know what your calculations were? =)
E_MAN chriskarr4 years ago
sorry, but i do not remember, i did it awhile ago, try for your self, i remember that they were kind of easy. I found that they were not worth the price. Buying a 12v solar panel would be cheaper and smaller.
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