Introduction: Solar Cell Phone Charger Made From Old Parts and An...ALTOIDS TIN ... What Else??

Picture of Solar Cell Phone Charger Made From Old Parts and An...ALTOIDS TIN ... What Else??

What do these 2 items have in common? Well you might carry them together in a purse or backpack. By the end of this instructable they will have a lot in Common.
I'm gonna show you how to take the guts from an old LED landscape light and make it into a portable phone charger. HERES THE DISCLAMER " I HAVE NO IDEA HOW ALL BRANDS OF CELL PHONES WORK AND I"M NOT AN ELECTRICIAN SO TRY NOT TO KILL YOU NEW $400 PHONE. I JUST KNOW IT WORKED ON MINE"

Step 1: Stuff You Will Need for Your Solar Cell Phone Charger

Picture of Stuff You Will Need for Your Solar Cell Phone Charger

First you will need..

Altoids tin (empty)

Solar Cell small 6 v 3 1/4" x 2" or smaller
(I used the guts out of a cheap landscaping LED light. If you can find one that doesn't work its prob the battery, and we don't need them)
NOTE: I'm not electrical genius but every cell phone I have had in the last few years has a 3.7v lion battery. The wall charger I have for my phone now puts out 5.7v and so does the solar cell??? So I'm guessing that any solar cell 3v to 6v might work. My old wall charger works for my phone and it's out put is 3.7v. I have tested little solar cells in the sun and 3v cells will put out 4v easy. If you read the back of your wall charger and find out what the output is and match that to a solar cell you should be in business.

Electrical tape

Velcro (with the stick back)

Plug in charger (that fits in your phone an old one car or wall)

Soldering Iron (solder)

Voltage Meter (If you know how to use it ..or you can wing it and maybe blow up your phone)

Hack Saw Blade

Step 2: Prep the Solar Cell and Other Stuff

Picture of Prep the Solar Cell and Other Stuff

I got mine out of a broken land scape LED light. The kind you poke in the ground and use to light the path. Once I got it free of the plastic shell. I cut the solar cell free of the battery and the circuit board. Then I used a hack saw blade to cut some old plastic bits off the back of the plastic mounting board the solar cells are attached to so it will be flat.
I check the cell (in the sun light) for polarity that means which contact is + and - (if you don't know how to use a voltage meter search the ALL KNOWING INTER-WEB)
I also checked the polarity of the plugged in charger I marked the + wire with tape. Then I cut the wire in half. We only want the side that goes in the cell phone.

Step 3: Prep the Altoids Tin

Picture of Prep the Altoids Tin

I put some electrical tape on the inside of the tin to protect against possible shorts.

Next I soldered the charger wires to the solar cell + to + and - to -.

Step 4: Attach the Solar Cell to the Lid

Picture of Attach the Solar Cell to the Lid

I used some sticky sided Velcro and stuck one piece to the center of the solar cell and one to the center of the lid. I also covered the exposed wire and contacts with some electrical tape.

Step 5: I Think Your Done

Picture of I Think Your Done

Stick the solar cell in the lid, plug in your cell phone and point it at the sun.
You can now toss it in your bag and forget about it. Just remember about it when your almost out of juice and need to make some calls. I found I can even charge it under strong indoor lighting.


AUSTINS8 (author)2015-10-12

it seems simple think i have a few laying around

NiratM (author)2015-06-13

can u please give me the schematic diagram of this project?
also give me the working of this project
my mail id is-
please mail me as soon as possible

jerc10 (author)2013-09-23

can i have a schematic diagram??? and step by step procedure??? . . .tnx

willpacker (author)2013-05-26

very good its help me with mine got a 6.9v 700mah solar panle chargeing 4x800mah batteys i will get bigger ones soon and the lead of a nokia charger coneted to it and i have made it work mine ipod nano (two data leads coneted together ) and it works with the iphone 3g but eats the baterys like theirs no tomowo as they are only 800mah very well done
ps i now charge mine firends ipod as he has no charger with it i will put how i made i on here when i get my camaer back

KBS Visual Media (author)2012-06-04

I have a 4V 100ma Solar panel. can i use that to charge a mobile phone battery(3.7V)? How long will it take to charge fully? Please reply as fast as possible.

its need to min. 5v also you need to add diode and voltage regulator if its more than 6v

meddler (author)2008-01-24

would this charge batteries in one of those wall plug rechargers???

jdf88 (author)meddler2012-03-21

You can charge other types of rechargable batteries with this set up if the voltage of the solar cell is greater than that of the batteries. You cannot use a solar cell to power household devices. A solar cell makes charges (electrons) move in one direction; this is called Direct Current (DC). The outlet in your wall makes electrons move back and forth pretty quickly; this is called Alternating Current (AC).

veggiecycle (author)meddler2008-01-24

I'm not sure what type your talking about. But it should charge any rechargable battery under 6v. Its how long it gonna take it to do it is the question... and we are not working with a charge controller like they have built into a cell phone. I'm working on the "seek to its level"... like water theory. I don't know much about the tech of battery charging so maybe someone smart on this site will read this and expand. Thanks Mike

jdf88 (author)veggiecycle2012-03-21

For starters, we should define some electricity vocabulary.

mA (milliamps), Amps, etc. are a measure of current. Current is the amount of charge flowing through a certain point.

Volts are a measure of voltage (which has a bunch of other names, but we won't get into that). Voltage is related to the energy given to each charge.

We can use an analogy to water here, at least at this level. We can think of electric current as water current, and we can think of voltage as the height of the water above the ground. Charge (and current) will want to flow from high voltage to low voltage, like water would want to flow from high ground to low ground.

So the solar cell needs to have a higher voltage than the battery it is charging so that current goes into the battery instead of out of it.

Some people have mentioned an electronic device called a diode. A diode only allows current to go in one direction. Putting some of these in the right places will make sure that no current (and no energy) goes out of the battery when the solar cell is moved out of the light. I would have to research solar cells before I could say whether a diode is truly necessary here. It is possible that it would not take much current to raise the voltage of the solar cell to that of the battery. (Think about filling a tube with water; if it is skinny and water does not leave, it won't take much water. If there is a hole in the tube or it is really wide, it will take a lot of water.)

I think that I should also mention power, because nobody else has. Power is measured in Watts. If you multiply power x time, you get energy. On electric bills, they charge you for energy in terms of kilowatt x hours (where a kiloatt is 1000 Watts).

Power (in Watts) = voltage (in volts) x current (in Amps)

There are 1000 mA in one Amp.

pj_dragonfly (author)2011-01-25

I have the same phone as you!
The nokia 6300.

me too, my one is slowing down and the aerial is loose so it has bad signal and it slows down because of the 2gb card. :)

acostello (author)2011-05-25

Now being 2011 does this instructable still work? I have the first droid and was planning on building one for it (knowing that the phone has a battery life of 5 hrs at the most). The voltage on my charger outputs is 5.1v and 850 mA. If you could respond that would be great!

scottinnh (author)acostello2011-07-11

Voltage is the most important thing, and some phones are very picky if you go over/under by more than 10%.

It is not likely you will build this to 850ma using a pair of lawnscaping panels... but worry not, you do not need anywhere near 850ma if you are patient.

There could be a low-current cutoff in your phone - say 200ma (just a guess) under which the phone will not charge. I think phones with smaller batteries can get by on less charge, whereas something like a droid or iphone would be more picky.

If your cells can not maintain 5v reliably, you will want to run your power (whatever you get) through a MintyBoost circuit.

The Minty design is now at v3, but a Minty v2 (I think there is a tutorial here) would be more efficient for this application, and you can get the MAX756 chip sampled free. :-)

.. and if it does not work with your phone no matter what, use the cells to charge a NiMH AA batteries which are pretty forgiving. Then use the AA batteries to charge your phone (4 rechargable AA's directly will charge your phone, or 2-4 rechargable AA's through a MintyBoost will give you a nice flat 5V output curve until the batteries are completely empty).

Personally, I would not buy landscape lights to try this out. If you have some already, great. If you are going to buy something, I would go for one of the newer better solar cells from Adafruit or Sparkfun, etc.

BadPear (author)2009-06-21

I tried doing this, I got a 6V/50mA solar panel from radioshack. I followed the wiring exactly (not much too screw up), even have the same phone! But when I stick the sucked in the bright Arizona sun, nothing happens. The phone doesn't switch to the flashing battery thing. Does anyone know what might have gone wrong?

tautius (author)BadPear2010-02-21

Thats because cell phone needs more energy than 50mA. i think you need a circuit that collect energy

thepaul93 (author)BadPear2009-11-05

it might need more power

Colonel88 (author)BadPear2009-10-01

Some phones need something in the elctricity (?) so u cant make custom chargers. These phones are: Itouch... and others. I dont know how exactly but the chargers might have something in them that tells the phone that it's charging.

ironsmiter (author)2008-01-24

To try and answer some of the questions already posted... The circuit provides the cell phone with the current it needs to use it's INTERNAL Lithium-Ion Battery Charging circuit. You could also use this to supply current to anything.. BUT.. and this is a big but... it is UNREGULATED current/voltage. If you plan on using this project on expensive, or non-replacable electronics... beter build a regulated dc-dc circuit to put inline.

Colonel88 (author)ironsmiter2009-10-01

So you mean we put some capacitorsi n there to even out fluctuations and maybe a 1:1 transformer or some resistors.

DualPhase (author)ironsmiter2009-03-31

You guys need to listen to Ironsmiter. This isn't safe to charge anything that you don't want to fry

Colonel88 (author)2009-10-01

U forgot to stick a diode in there, Or the battery will go and waste in the solar cell.

sansuifidelity (author)2009-09-25

i have the same phone man!

clemopoppy (author)2009-05-17

F yall Goodlife

iDexter (author)2009-05-02

would this work on an ipod touch second generation

jillg (author)2009-04-18

did you at least use a diode?

TheGoodLife (author)2009-04-12

I think YOU'RE done

kpdyer (author)2008-10-29

hi. I'm doing a science fair project and do you think that this would be good for it? Also do you have any other recommendations? I have also looked at other chargers, but i'm not sure what to do.

mutantxgene (author)2008-06-09

I have a newbie question. Most of the diy solar projects I've seen you have to make sure that regulators, diodes etc. are used and that you cut off one end of a phone charger and solder everything together. Instead of cutting off the wires from a charger, couldn't you just hook the solar cells directly to the charger? I figured that the charger has all of the necessary electronics already. I'm new to soldering and electronics so forgive my lack of knowledge.

Shut Up Now (author)mutantxgene2008-08-25

if u mean attaching the solar cell to the 2 prongs of ur phone charger than the answer is no. explanation: phone chargers are made to be plugged into the wall and their input voltage is 110/220 depending on where you live. for the solar cell to still charge the phone it would have to produce 110 or 220 volts of power.. not happening. hope i answered ur question. p.s. - i'm a newbie with electrics too.

thepaul93 (author)Shut Up Now2008-08-26

no its 110/240 volts in Australia we run on 240V YEH i just thought i had to say that :)

omkar_hummer (author)2008-05-20

can u add up a rechargeble battery so that it can be charged at night time?

Markomaani (author)2008-05-17

Works great on my Nokia N71. Thanks for this instruction!

struckbyanarrow (author)2008-04-12

the ginger altoids were discontinued right?

Angus06 (author)2008-03-31

Alright before you go spend a bunch of money on a nice solar panel and get all excited, BE WARNED!!!! SOLAR PANELS ARE NICE BUT LACK AMPERAGE! I unforunately learned this the über aggravating/hard way. What I am now doing is charging four rechargeable AA batteries in a < $2 holder i got at radioshack. I then will connect the FULLY charged batteries (Ni-Cd :( ) to the decapitated charger, which should work, seeing as how non-rechargeable batteries charged the player. I'll reply to this in a few days perhaps with pictures if it works out.

BigD145 (author)2008-02-17

I plan to do something similar with my own phone. The only difference is I will attach the panel directly to the back of the phone (velcro). It'll have a much smaller footprint and be easier to tote around. Just flip your phone over wherever you go and you're set. It's also easy to tuck it into a big floppy hat that has open loops on it for holding stuff. Most cell phones may have a 3.7 or so battery in them, but the actual DC voltage in from a wall wart is 4.8-5V. What you want is a 5V solar cell and a diode with a .3V drop, ideally. That's how you keep from destroying your battery and/or phone.

Angus06 (author)BigD1452008-02-22

I went to radio shack a short while ago, and the lowest drop on a diode I could find was 1.1v, so i grabbed a three-pack of those :/ . I got a 6v/12v (switchable, though the 12v is somewhat screwy) solar panel from ebay. I'm soldering in the diode and basically doing this, although the panel is far too big for an altoids tin.

BigD145 (author)Angus062008-02-22

I have .5V drops hanging around somewhere. It's usually low quality parts that get up around 1v.

LinuxH4x0r (author)2008-01-24

Nice, but it should have some sort of regulation (nokia uses 5.7v charger). Great concept, but it probably needs refinement.

GorillazMiko (author)2008-01-24

Awesome Instructable! Nice phone you have there. Nice Instructable again, it looks very well done.

tyeo098 (author)2008-01-24

Old parts, an altoids tin, and a solar cell, i thought it was steam based.. =[

veggiecycle (author)tyeo0982008-01-24

I'm working on a portable steam powered cell phone charger but it won't fit in an Altoids tin. I'm trying to build it to fit in an old Scooby doo thermos... I have a steam powered cell phone but its not portable. I attach it to the steam power plant on my dirigible. I'll keep you posted

mikedoth (author)2008-01-24

How well does this work?

veggiecycle (author)mikedoth2008-01-24

It works.. I just got it finished last night and its been raining so I can't test how long it takes to charge my battery yet.. but when I was testing the parts a few days ago (when the sun was out) I would move it into the sun and my cell phone would read "Charging" and the little battery icon would do its filling up movement on the screen. It would stop when I would take it out of the sun.

mikedoth (author)veggiecycle2008-01-24

Am I assuming that for this to work the solar cell output would need to match the voltage output of the battery in question?

veggiecycle (author)mikedoth2008-01-24

Well.. again I'm not electrical genius but every cell phone I have had in the last few years has a 3.7v lion battery. The wall charger I have for my phone now puts out 5.7v and so does the solar cell??? So I'm guessing that any solar cell 3v to 6v might work. My old wall charger works for my phone and it's out put is 3.7v. I have tested little solar cells in the sun and 3v cells will put out 4v easy. If you read the back of your wall charger and find out what the output is and match that to a solar cell you should be in business. I hope this helped ..I'm gonna ad this as a note to my steps Have fun Mike

mikedoth (author)veggiecycle2008-01-24

Just so I can wrap my head around it (others can hopefully help me out), the cell phone probably has either a resistor in it, or something to down sample the voltage? I want to apply this theory to other projects i'm working on.

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