How to Connect Solar Cells to Fabric

Introduction: How to Connect Solar Cells to Fabric

About: Electronic engineer with 25 years experience in textiles. Currently working on interactive fabrics.

This instructable will tell you a simple way to connect flexible solar cells to fabric. This is a system that mechanically fixes the cell to a fabric, but also, most important, electrically connects the positive and the negative terminals of the cell.

This is a great way to remove solar cell from your e-wearables during washing.

You'll need

1. flexible solar cells. You can buy them here

2. Fasteners. Best if you use 7 mm fasteners. And pliers. You can find 7 mm fasteners and pliers here

3. fine electric wire

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Step 1: Connecting the Solar Cell

Solar cells have a positive and a negative terminal (they produce DC current). These are usually metallized areas placed at both ends of the cell. First of all put the cell under a light and find with your multimeter which is the positive and which is the negative terminal. Mark it with a pencil.

The cell I used has a plastic film on top of both terminals, so to touch the conductive metal you need to lift the film up.

To connect the cell get a fastener, place the ring with teeth toward the plastic, on the side of the silicon, place the bottom of the cell over a piece of cardboard and press with your thumb. This way the teeth penetrate inside through the plastic film and through the metal terminal.

Step 2: Positive and Negative

Now get the other piece of the fastener place it in the plier tool and fix it to the cell. Try to use a type of fastener for positive (i.e. male) and one for negative (i.e. female). This is particularly important if you have many cells to connect in series or in parallel.

Repeat the operation for the other terminal, paying attention to use the other type of fastener.

By penetrating through the metal, fasteners are now in contact with the metal of the terminal. Not only. You can use the fastener to attach my solar cell to a fabric.

Step 3: Attaching to Fabric

Once you have fixed all fasteners to your cells you can proceed to fix the fasteners to the piece of fabric. 

First cut pieces of fine wire and strip the ends of it.

Then carefully measure the distance between fasteners and, using the pliers, fix the fasteners to the fabric, placing the wire between the ring and the body of the fastener. Remember to use male on the fabric on the side where the cell has female and vice versa.

Once all fasteners are attached to the fabric you can button your solar cell to the fabric. At the end of the two small wires you will be able to measure the voltage output of the cell.

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    9 years ago on Introduction

    I've worked with thin-film cells before, piercing the cells could, and most likely will cause a short, since the top and bottom of the individual cells are the poles. granted, even if it does short out, it could only effect the voltage by around .55v, since they're wired in series, and it's only taking out one row of cells. this is an interesting idea, but I'd recommend soldering a tiny wire from the fastener to the cell and just glue the fastener to the bottom, instead. it'll take a little more work, but it won't damage the cell or decrease it's efficiency.