Introduction: Homemade Solar Cell Using Household Items (update)

Question: can someone make a solar cell at home using household items?

Answer: yes you can using some very unusual items that are found around the house.

Solar panels are great for producing clean electricity, the only problem is the cost to buy one can be in the thousands, and the cheaper ones barely produce any electricity. Today I will be showing you how to build your own solar cells at home using some interesting materials that you can get from your local store or on the internet.

The solar cell that I made produces about 1volt, with 2 of these you could be able to light an LED, and with 5 you could even charge your device, I mean how cool is that. The glass that I used to make this was from an old microscope that I had that came with some glass slides that came with the kit. If you decide that you want to make this you don't have to use glass slides, any size piece of glass work just for larger pieces you may need to take some wire and lay it across the panel to cover more surface area, the bigger the cell the more electricity it will produce.

For the best result make sure that you clean the foil off, along with the glass to ensure that the chemicals can make good contact with the foil, and to ensure that light can pass through the glass. The aluminum foil I found can rip easily so for my next one I will use two strips of aluminum from a pop can after sanding the paint off, these new connections would be stronger so be white to use pop can strips instead of aluminum foil.

Step 1:

Here's what you will need to make this:
  • Two aluminum strips or noncoated copper wire(don't use foil, use a pop can)
  • Glue
  • Scotch tape
  • A bowl (for holding juice)
  • Two pieces of glass the same size(I used slides)
  • Blueberries or BlackBerries 
  • SPF 90 Sunscreen(TiO2, titanium dioxide)
  • A tea candle 
  • A cup
  • A coffee filter
  • Iodine

Step 2:

Start by glueing the copper wire or the aluminum strips to each of the glass slides.

Step 3:

Next you should take your bowl and fill it with your berries.

Step 4:

Squish up the berries so the juice is free to be filtered.

Step 5:

Filter out the juice from the pulp. Anthocynin is the pigment that is extracted during this process.

Step 6:

Empty out the bowl and poor the filtered liquid into the bowl.

Step 7:

When your done with the juice set it aside to be used later. Then take one of the slides and tape the edges.

Step 8:

Generously apply the sunscreen to the slide.

Step 9:

Use a round object to smooth out the sun screen.

Step 10:

Remove the tape, and let it dry for 15 minutes.

Step 11:

Take your slide and set it in the juice for another 15 minutes.

Step 12:

While the first slide is soaking take your other slide and hold it over the lit tea candle with the side with the foil down. What you will see is the glass will start to turn black, this is carbon being deposited on the slide. Do this until you can't see through the glass any more.

Step 13:

When the slide is done soaking remove it and wipe the extra juice off with a q'tip.

Step 14:

Take the slide that was soaking in the juice put 4 drops of iodine on it 

Step 15:

Take the carbon coated slide and set it on top of slide with the iodine on it, then take some paper clips and put them on the two slides assigned in the photo.

Step 16:

Take some scotch tape and cut it into three very thin pieces. Put one on each end and one in the middle to hold the slides together.

Step 17:

How does it work? Simple the titanium dioxide reacts with blueberry juice to form a semiconductive material when the semiconductor is hit by ambient light it excites the electrons in the carbon and iodine atoms causing them to move in one direction creating current. If you took multiples of these and soldered them in series it would increase the voltage by one volt each time, if you made larger ones of these it would also increase the voltage by 0.5v with every square Inch

Conclusion: I found that the solar cell I made produced one volt, if you like this then favorite it, and if you want to see many more things like this then be sure to follow me. If you made this yourself then I want to see it, leave a photo in the comments below. For all my followers I say thank you for the support. Don't forget to vote for me in the scientific method contest, the gadget hacking contest, and the green electronics contest thank you.

Comments

author
creektilghmank45 made it! (author)2017-07-03

if you want to know how to make some of your diy stuffs yourself , just go to inplix website. There you'll find your answers :)

author
chronistergama made it! (author)chronistergama2017-07-03

Thank you so much

author
Dorothy Murphy made it! (author)2016-04-24

Excuse me, but I would like to know how to connect the solar panel to a device or plug it into something. I have to make this for school, it is due in a week or two, please help!

Even if you do not reply in time, I would like to know.

author
joeyB53 made it! (author)joeyB532017-01-10

This needs a few things to make it work.

Soldering iron with stuff to use with it

wire

5 panels i a series(USB is 5 volts)

holding the USB with the solid "chip down" (the plastic thing with copper plates or gold if you're fancy)

solder one wire to the left side this is positive

solder the other wire to the right side this is negative

solder it respectively(by positive and negative) to your 5 solar panels, which are to be soldered together in a row(positive on negative)

never tried this but spent 20 minutes looking stuff up up so it is probably workable.

Also, do you think this would make a good Instructable? Please reply to this reply if you can reply to reply.

author
joeyB53 made it! (author)joeyB532017-01-11

also i assume by device you meant phone and do this to the charger cable

author
AnvitaS1 made it! (author)2016-11-30

is it okay if the titanium dioxide is white in colour?

author
FrancisP40 made it! (author)2016-11-13

Do you have any recommendations to this project?

author
Mtg5233 made it! (author)2016-10-16

Does it have to be titanium dioxide

author
DracoA2 made it! (author)2015-11-08

can the titanium oxide be blue?

author
AustinG40 made it! (author)AustinG402016-07-26

Yes

author
sawzeroo made it! (author)2015-11-15

does it realy work?.. did any one make it.

author
AustinG40 made it! (author)AustinG402016-07-26

I made several before getting one that actually works, I do not recommend using aluminum for any part of this whatsoever, I also so not advise using sunscreen like the instructions said.

author
YousifA15 made it! (author)2016-05-08

By the way, you just need to attach the wire to both ends od the alluminum foil, then attach the wire to the lightbulb, then put light over it, and the lightbulb will turn on

author
ChrisC6 made it! (author)2015-12-17

So I am not at all knocking this... not even a little. I have been dying to understand this better on THIS level. Not "step 1 buy solar cells" .... but im curious about a few things. Mind you I dont really understand the chemistry happening here. Forgive me...

1) so blueberries, Anthocynin ... I am very confused by this. Obviously it has something to do with light spectrums and light absorption and/or PH levels? If its PH and acidity why not lemon? If its absorption .... is this the best thing? can you explain this to me? Is this like natures way to filter out the ultra violet light, and if so how does it have any properties like that after carbonizing it?

2) why sunscreen lotion? not to mention most places just recently got busted for the SPF being now where near the level / time / strength the bottle claims. So if the 'element' we are after is blocking certain rays of sun, this too may be improved on... ?

** reading more

Ok so the sunscreen is for the Zinc right? ..... so you have Zinc and Copper.... if so please elaborate? if not please explain?

3) officially my brain is broken even with the explanation but another thought I had is this. A paraffin candle will turn almost anything black when held above it, especially close. Id be inclined to say you are better off with a clean heat source as to be sure thats carbon, not smoot from the candle. In that case it would block light, you need. That leads me into thinking about just making carbon from the berries, place in nearly sealed container, in a fire. I am assuming we are after a sort of active carbon? and there is a difference between inactive and active carbon. One is much harder to make.

author
MissLivia made it! (author)MissLivia2016-02-20

I know you left this comment 2 months ago, but in case you haven't figured out the answers to your questions:

1) need to use fruits with anthocyanins in them, as the dye part because of the gap they have between their electronic homo and lumo levels. Basically a photon from the sun has to hit the dye, promote an electron and the electron has to be able to separate from the hole, which you can only get in a semiconducting material (something with a gap between homo/lumo). You can use blueberries or raspberries, but strawberries won't work, as even though they are red/purple, they don't have the anthocyanins.
2) you need the TiO2 from the sunscreen. you can make a DSSC with ZnO, but it seems like with household items the sunscreen with TiO2 is most useful.
3) The candle deposits soot on the slide, which is essentially conductive carbon, so you are making the other electrode for your cell. You could try using a soft graphite pencil as well.

For a more technical look, check out this link on DSSCs: http://gcell.com/dye-sensitized-solar-cells

author
Noyola01 made it! (author)2016-02-08

Like now!!!!!!!

author
Noyola01 made it! (author)2016-02-08

Like now!!!!!!!

author
Noyola01 made it! (author)2016-02-08

Like now!!!!!!!

author
Noyola01 made it! (author)2016-02-08

Like now!!!!!!!

author
Noyola01 made it! (author)2016-02-08

Fast

author
Noyola01 made it! (author)2016-02-08

Fast

author
Noyola01 made it! (author)2016-02-08

Please someone help

author
Noyola01 made it! (author)2016-02-08

How do you hook the panel up to a lightbulb

author
Noyola01 made it! (author)Noyola012016-02-08

Someone please reply

author
pendingmata6 made it! (author)2014-09-03

is the glass conductive? Does it need to be conductive (coated with tin oxide) like in other examples of this experiment? if it needs to be conductive where should i get it from and if not then can i get any glass?

author
ChrisC6 made it! (author)ChrisC62015-12-17

No, glass is not conductive.Glass is an excellent insulator.

author
adam.ex2 made it! (author)2015-03-15

I have several Questions

1. can banana ,grapes or any other fruits be used ? If yes what other fruits?

2. which side is positive and negative?

3. Which part of the solar cell is connected to the wires is it the alluminium foil?

author
ChrisC6 made it! (author)ChrisC62015-12-17

I think you get 1 of 2 things (or both) from blueberries. A) they are blue, they have a pygment (Anthocynint) hat blocks a specific light spectrum naturally. So most blue red and purple plants have it .. possibly only allowing useful (usable) light to hit the cell. B) they are acidic, probably much more so than a battery. I would have to say no but I had some similar questions ... I dont think it would be hard at all to sort out + and - if you made one just test it? Actually an LED (unlike a light bulb) will only work 1 way.... :) 3 is a good question.

author
DaniilG made it! (author)DaniilG2015-08-29

I would think that any potential electricity will come from the burnt glass

author
daniel.lapain.7 made it! (author)daniel.lapain.72015-03-31

1. Any plant can be used, blueberries and raspberries are just the most potent

2. No positive or negative for the most part but if your cell is more effective reversed then your multimeter will tell you by the way your wires are connected, if yours is labeled that is.

3. Don't know exactly what you mean by this, but I'll try my best, anything inside the cell will lead to an output where you attach your wires. By this instructable he places a piece of aluminum can on either part then connects it to wire after completion.

author
holymohsen made it! (author)2015-10-24

Can I USE WHITE PAINT INSTEAD OF SUNSCREEN LOTION?

author
ChrisC6 made it! (author)ChrisC62015-12-17

Reading through it now, I think the 'element' you want from the sunscreen is the zinc. I am going to guess, no. I think this creates a zinc and copper interaction. like a battery. Possibly some kind of zince cream? So I am going to say no paint would not work.

author
JeffM29 made it! (author)2015-09-11

is Zn0 interchangeable with the Ti02, I am also wonder if there is anything special about the source of the Anthocyanidin because I was thinking of black soy beans and purple corn but then I thought about the acids in the berries and wondered if this was a contributing factor and would need a source of acid.

author
JeffM29 made it! (author)JeffM292015-09-11

O and one other question can you use powders instead of paint or sun screen. They
are readably available on amazon, zinc is cheaper but not by that much but enough that if you were to do a large one it would make a dent in the pocket using Ti02.

author
ChrisC6 made it! (author)ChrisC62015-12-17

Reading through it now, I think the 'element' you want from the sunscreen is the zinc. I am going to guess, no. I think this creates a zinc and copper interaction. like a battery. Possibly some kind of zince cream? So I am going to say no paint would not work.

author
GoingGreenin2016 made it! (author)2015-12-01

How do you actually hook it up to charge your phone or to power something?

author
ChrisC6 made it! (author)ChrisC62015-12-17

Probably the easiest way would be to check the voltage of a few cells and maybe the amps as well and then get a cheap charger that fits your device and clip that off and connect the + to the + and - to the - ... and then plug your phone in like you would any other device. I suppose.

author
Houseofchristina made it! (author)2015-11-14

I have several pieces of 12 x 12 glass ( formerly old greenhouse windows, slightly thicker than window glass), to make a larger version, or many of them, would you change anything? also, the math for figuring the voltage? Thanks so much :)

author
MichaelF20 made it! (author)2015-11-07

I have seen many of the tarnished copper solar cells created (which are much less efficient), but this is the first based on chemicals that are similar to what would be used in a thin film solar cell. To that end I would love to see somone tweek this design

author
drwasim made it! (author)2015-08-23

Hi

It is excellent!

Dr. Wasim

author
ElijahL4 made it! (author)2015-08-11

I made it but it is not working. When you put the multi-tester in the aluminum test points, it is not reading any voltage, but it can read if you connect the tester's test points near to the glass which when I read in ohmmeter, it is OL. please help.

author
huynh_nathan made it! (author)2015-07-23

Can someone tell me how the cell connects to the light bulb? And what it connects with. Thanks

author
mammu123 made it! (author)2015-05-18

Can i use spf100 or spf50?? Please reply fast...

author
Pure Carbon made it! (author)Pure Carbon2015-05-26

yes, but it will be less effective.

author
mammu123 made it! (author)2015-05-21

How much time i should keep this thing under sun..

author
bhesania.om made it! (author)2015-03-30

can we use salt instead of iodine ?

author
daniel.lapain.7 made it! (author)daniel.lapain.72015-03-31

liquid salt will work but is less effective

author
mifthah made it! (author)2015-03-31

can weuse something like a plastic instead of glass?

author
daniel.lapain.7 made it! (author)daniel.lapain.72015-03-31

yes it works, I've tested it, but you just have to be extra careful when you bring the candle near it

author
daniel.lapain.7 made it! (author)daniel.lapain.72015-03-31

it's not as effective as glass for the record, it has to be doped first. Find conductive plastic for this purpose. The process of making it is just as long as this instructable but way more dangerous because it involves using corrosive chemical to extract tin oxide for the project. You need a proper lab for it.

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