Haddock Invention (the company I work with) and partner lab Mantis Shrimp Invention are working on something called the Solar Pocket Factory (SPF), a tabletop factory that can make small-scale solar panels from raw cells at 25% lower cost than can be done today in China. We are aiming to create a new local-cleantech with thousands of little Solar Pocket Factories spread around the world, churning out locally-made picosolar in cities and towns near you.
Since it will be a while before the Solar Pocket Factory is in full operation, we decided to share some of what we're learning about picosolar in the meantime. Over the next few months, Alex (with Mantis Shrimp Invention) and I will be posting a new DIY picosolar project every week or so, using raw crystalline PV cells. The flexibility enabled by using raw solar cells (as opposed to the mounted and encapsulated cells available at Ratshack or on Digikey) is powerful, and we hope to share a little bit of what we are learning through these instructables.
Here's an easy one to kick things off -- the Fanned Light. A fanned arrangement of tiny solar cells (solettes) held together with super glue. No soldering is necessary for this project. It should take you about 10 minutes to complete. And by the end, you will have a solar light that works in the day (which is neat, but useless) or night (by adding a battery pack), from raw picosolar cells. RAW!
p.s. Where can you get the small bits of solar cells -- the solettes -- needed for these Instructables? Well, it's a pain right now. You can track these puppies down from suppliers in China, but they aren't easy to pin down: http://manilamantis.wordpress.com/2012/04/25/the-dark-side-2/
So, to make this easier, we just launched a Kickstarter campaign for all your DIY solar needs (Aug 15 - Sept 14): http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/alex9000/the-solar-pocket-factory-an-invention-adventure
Step 1: Materials and tools
++ 4 to 8 solettes (those small pieces of raw cells), depending on the LED you want to light up
++ One or more LEDs: these can be any color, and the number of solettes will just need to be adjusted accordingly
++ Superglue (also known as cyanoacrylate, or Krazyglue): must be the liquid, thin stuff.
++ (Optional) 3.6V NiMH battery pack: this can be three AAA NiMH rechargeable batteries in series, or you can find thin 3.6V NiMH battery packs in some cordless phones
++ (Optional) Some resistors, if your solettes are not matched well to your LEDs and/or if you want to control the brightness of the LEDs
++ A LDPE folder or container cover for a super-glue resistant working surface
++ A steady hand that can right the mast of a ship-in-a-bottle