Introduction: NOCTURNAL SOLAR LIGHT BULB V2.0
Solar energy is clean and limitless, and the operational costs are close to nothing once you’ve installed a solar panel as no fuel is needed to create a considerable amount of energy. And a single kerosene wick burns an estimated 80 liters of fuel, producing more than 250 kilograms of carbon dioxide per year.
To help people living in remote places with limited access to electricity, we made a low-cost solar light bulb as a replacement for a harmful kerosene lamp.
I have already posted an Instructable on this project. The earlier version is quite popular on the internet and useful for people all around the globe. So, I thought to redesign the lamp.
In this Instructable, I will share the entire design process of my DIY solar lamp ( PCB Design, Enclosure Design, and Assembling).
This project was presented at AU 2020 conference, you can watch the full video.
Follow me on Instagram @opengreenenergy
1.Use of the solar lamp will decrease the amount of local air pollution and saves energy.
2. It also came out as an alternative business model with the potential to strengthen the overall rural economy by generating technology-based livelihood opportunities.
3. It can provide access to solar lamps at an affordable price to a wide range of audience living in the remote villages that are deprived of clean energy access.
Full Video Tutorial:
1. Solar Panel -2V ( Amazon )
2. IC QX5252F ( Amazon )
3. 33uH Inductor ( Amazon / Banggood )
4. 8mm Straw Hat LED ( Amazon / Banggood )
5. Switch ( Aliexpress / Banggood )
6. DC Jack ( Amazon / Banggood )
7. AA NiMh Battery ( Amazon / Banggood )
8. Battery Spring Plates ( Amazon )
9. 22 AWG wires ( Amazon / Banggood )
10. Heatshrink Tubing ( Amazon / Banggood )
10. JST male-female connectors ( Amazon / Banggood )
11. PCB ( PCBWay)
12. 1W Solar Panel ( 3 - 5V ) ( Amazon )
13. Spray Paint - Bright Chrome ( Amazon )
1. Soldering Iron ( Amazon / Banggood )
2. Wire Stripper ( Amazon / Banggood )
3.Nipper ( Amazon / Banggood )
4. Hot Air Gun ( Amazon / Banggood )
5. Hot Glue Gun ( Amazon / Banggood )
Step 1: Components of Solar Lamp
The solar lamp is a standalone SPV system and contains four components of Standalone SPV system:
1.Solar Panel: Convert Solar Energy to Electrical Energy
2.Controller: Charge the Battery ( Charger ) and drive the Load ( Driver )
3.Battery: Store the Electrical Energy
4.Load (LED): Provide the desired light output
Step 2: Controller Selection
The controller has two tasks
1. Charging the Battery:
Isolate the Solar Panel and Battery when the battery is fully charged and Isolate the load from the Battery when the battery voltage is low.
2. Driving the LED:
Capable to drive the selected LED ( ability to handle the required voltage and current ) i.e Boost the battery voltage ( 1.2V ) to LED operating voltage (3.2V) or higher
Here we will use a cheap QX5252F IC as a controller.
The main features are:
1.Suitable for a single AA NiMh/NiCd battery
2.Operating Voltage: 0.9V-1.5V
3.Output current: 3mA-300mA ( Our requirement is 93.7mA )
4.Integrated Schottky Diode
5.High Efficiency up to 84%
6.Low quiescent current: 17uA ( When the circuit is not working / standby )
7.Only an external inductor is required for making the Circuit
Step 3: How the Circuit Works?
The heart of this Solar Lamp is a very small 4 legged IC QX5252F. It works similar to the "Joule Thief " circuit. But the advantage of using this chip is that it does not require a bulky and heavy toroid. It does the same job using only a simple inductor, single AA / AAA battery, and a LED.
It requires only an external inductor for making the Circuit. The LED current can be changed by using a different value inductor. The chart is shown in the above picture. I have used a 33uH inductor.
Pin-1 -> Solar panel positive terminal
Pin-2 -> Battery positive terminal and one leg of Inductor
Pin-3 -> All ground ( Solar panel, Battery, and LED negative terminal)
Pin-4 -> Another leg of Inductor
Step 4: Breadboard Testing
Before finalizing the circuit, It is always a good idea to prototype the circuit on a breadboard. This lets you check to make sure that all of your components are working perfectly.
Make the circuit on your bread bard as per the schematic. The LED should not glow if the circuit is correct. To simulate the dark condition, cover the solar panel with your palm. Now the LED should glow.
Step 5: Output Waveform and Observation
To check the performance of the circuit, remove the LED and hook up the oscilloscope probes.
You will observe that the output is not a steady DC voltage rather it fluctuates rapidly. In my case, the frequency is around 184.5 kHz. The peak to peak voltage is nearly 7.28 V and the average value is around 1.0 to 1.20V.
Note:If you try to measure the voltage by a normal multimeter, it will show near to your battery voltage.Because your meters only measure the average value of a fluctuating voltage.
Step 6: PCB Design
I have drawn the schematic by using Fusion 360 Electronics Design after that switched to PCB layout.
All of the components you added in the schematic should be there, stacked on top of each other, ready to be placed and routed. Drag the components by grabbing on its pads. Then place it inside the board outline. I have changed the board outline from default rectangular to circular one by using the outline circle tool.
Arrange all the components in such a way that the board occupies minimum space. The smaller the board size, the cheaper will be the PCB manufacturing cost. It will be useful if this board has some mounting holes on it so that it can be mounted in an enclosure.
Now you have to route. Routing is the most fun part of this entire process. It’s like solving a puzzle! Using the route tool we need to connect all the components. You can use both the top and the bottom layer for avoiding overlap between two different tracks and making the tracks shorter.
In the end, using the polygon tool, we need to create the ground area of the PCB.
Now the PCB is ready for manufacturing.
Note: I have not received my PCB due to the current pandemic COVID-19, so I have shown the assembling of my V2.0 PCB. But, the process is the same. In PCB V3.0, only two additional components (diode and capacitor) are added to make the circuit more powerful.
Step 7: Solder the Components
It is good practice to solder the components according to their height. Solder the lesser height components first. You can follow the following steps to solder the components :
1. Push the component legs through their holes, and turn the PCB on its back.
2. Hold the tip of the soldering iron to the junction of the pad and the leg of the component.
3. Feed solder into the joint so that it flows all around the lead and covers the pad. Once it has flowed all around, move the tip away.
First I have soldered the inductor, then the two JST connectors, and QX5252F.
Step 8: Solder the Inductor
Inductor comes in various packages, but here I have used an axial Inductor with value 33uH / 0.5W.
First bend the two legs at a right angle, then push the legs through the holes named "L" on the PCB.
Solder the inductor legs to the soldering pads on the PCB.
Step 9: Solder the QX5252F
The QX5252F comes in TO-94 package, the space between the adjacent legs are very small. So extra care must be taken during soldering. Otherwise, you will short the pins together.
In my V2.0 PCB, I have used the TO-94 package footprint, but in V3.0 I have used a wider footprint so that less chance of short circuit between the two legs.
Insert the QX5252F legs into the PCB holes, to insert correctly, number-1 is marked on the PCB. The pinout of the QX5252F chip is shown above.
Step 10: Solder the JST Connectors
Two JST connectors are used for connecting the terminal wires from the battery and solar panel.
Here I have used JST 2.0 PH, during buying be sure you are selecting the right components.
Insert the two JST connectors into the holes named "SOL" and "BAT", then solder them.
Before soldering, be sure that the connectors are inserted correctly ( polarity is correct ).
Step 11: Solder the LED
The LED used in this project is an 8mm / 0.5W straw hat type.
I have soldered the LED on the backside of the PCB. The reason for soldering the LED on the backside is that it will be easier to mount into the Front Reflector. But if you are not planning to use a 3D printed enclosure, you can solder the LED on the front side. Solder the LED with correct polarity, the longer leg of the LED is always positive terminal. Then trim the extra legs by using a nipper.
Step 12: Prepare the External Components
The external components are Solar Panel, DC Jack, battery spring plates, and rocker switch.
First, solder the JST connector terminal wire to the solar panel. The red wire will be connected to the positive and the black wire to the negative terminal.
Similarly, connect another JST connector to the two battery contact plates. The spring shape contact is the negative terminal.
At last, connect terminal wires to the DC jack and rocker switch.
1. Apply a small amount of soldering flux before soldering.
2. Apply heat shrink tubing to the exposed soldering joints, to avoid any accidental short circuit.
Step 13: 3D Printed Enclosure Design
To give a nice commercial product look, my friend " VARUN" has designed this enclosure for this project. He used Autodesk Fusion 360 to design the enclosure.
You can watch the AU2020 video ( 13:12), for steps by steps tutorial for this enclosure design.
The enclosure has two parts:
1. Main Body
2. Front Cover
The Main Body is basically designed to fit all the components including the battery. The front cover is to cover up the main body and serve as a reflector to spread the light from the LED.
Download the .STL files from Thingiverse.
Step 14: Printing the Enclosure
I have used my Creality CR-10 Mini printer and 1.75 mm Green and White PLA filaments to print the parts. It took me about 5 hours to print the main body and around 2 hours to print the front reflector.
My settings are:
1. Print Speed: 60 mm/s
2. Layer Height: 0.2mm ( 0.3 also works well)
3. Fill Density: 25%
4. Extruder Temperature: 200 deg C
5. Bed Temp: 60 deg C
Step 15: Preparing the Reflector
The reflector can be purchased directly from the market, but to reduce the cost, it is considered to be a part of the 3D printed enclosure. Only you have to apply a few coats of reflective spraypaint on the 3d printed enclosure.
Before applying the paint, cover the edges of the enclosure with masking tape, so that paint will be only applied to the reflector part.
Apply the spray paint over the enclosure surface. Then leave it for 10 -15 minutes to dry out. Repeat the same process 2 to 3 times (2-3 coats). It depends on you, how much smoothness you like.
After the final coat, leave it for 3-4 hours for complete drying.
Safety : Wear nose musk during the frosting. I will recommend doing it outside and well-ventilated space.
Step 16: Install the Components
Install the Solar panel on the top of the enclosure. The solar panel that I used is 58 x58 mm. Then install the DC jack and rocker switch.
At last install the PCB on the front reflector. Use hot-glue to fix all the components with the 3D printed enclosure. The enclosure is a snap-fit type, so we will not require additional mounting screws. Just align the tabs in the front reflector to the slots in the main body and then press it.
Step 17: Finishing
To test the lamp, cover the solar panel with your palm, the LED should glow. If the LED lights up, then the circuit is working perfectly.
Before using the lamp, it is recommended to charge the battery in bright sunlight.
You can place the lamp outside or you can keep the lamp inside and use an external solar panel (4 to 5V) to charge the lamp.
Hope my solar light bulb will give light to many rural people around the globe.
If you enjoyed this article, don’t forget to pass it along!
Follow me for more DIY projects and ideas. Thank you !!!
Runner Up in the
Question 1 year ago
nice project. i like your page. can i ask question? I will be glad if you answer :)
i have a 4.2 v 100 mA solar cell (60x60mm). How should i changed on circuit?
Tip 2 years ago
nice work! Great execution. I was not aware of the QX5252F chip. Can I know why you added mounting holes to the PCB but did not have them on the reflector? You use hotglue. Plus you are printing in the proper orientation to add those 2 mounting holes, looks like perfect match. I bought lots of different plastics screws off aliexpress for my 3D printing projects so I add them all the time now.
Question 2 years ago on Step 15
Can it be dangorus
Answer 2 years ago
2 years ago on Step 4
Your projects are very good
Reply 2 years ago
Thank you so much.
2 years ago
I love how you made the reflector part! Now I'll just have to test it and give it a go! Great project. I love holistic battery designs
Reply 2 years ago
Glad you like the design
2 years ago
Very nice project!
Reply 2 years ago
2 years ago
I like it but it is too much steps too it
2 years ago
Great project and great video! Just one small tip, PLA isn't UV resistant and since in this project it will be under direct sunlight for a lot of hours it will likely be damaged. If I were you I would print the parts in PETG or even better ASA, both of which offer great UV protection!
Reply 2 years ago
Thank you for the feedback.
2 years ago
Most cheap garden lights already exist with an identical circuit that activates when the solar cell(s) no longer catch any light. The first solar lights had an extra LDR to sensor the day from the night. And that LDR is no longer needed because the solar cell is now also used as sensor. But the design of the housing looks interesting and the way in how to make the reflector gives this article a nice touch. Overall a good project to help those in need of light!
Reply 2 years ago
You are correct, the circuit is mostly used in the solar garden light.