Octanis 1: How to Make Solar Panels

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Introduction: Octanis 1: How to Make Solar Panels

About: A rover mission to Antarctica • Octanis is an association at EPFL pushing students to go beyond just solving exercise series.

Octanis 1 will fly to Antarctica and land a satellite controlled rover. To do this, it needs lots of power and it will get it from the sun! Here's a guide on how to make Octanis' solar panels.

Find out more about the rover mission: http://octanis.org/

Step 1: Cut Your Cells

Cutting solar cells is the trickiest bit and this step depends on the type of solar cell and cutting device you use.

We used Sunpower C50 cells, that can be cut with a diamond glass cutter. It's enough to score the cell with precise force and then snap it carefully, hoping it will snap along the cut line. The yield for this is about 50%, so make sure you order enough cells!

Step 2: Clean Them

Use a sonicator bath to clean the cells. Make sure they don't overlap or touch each other as this would produce nasty stains.

Step 3: Prepare the Solar Panel Foundation

We will use adhesive foil as a layout guide and an easy way to keep the cells together when flipping them around after soldering.

Cut the adhesive foil to size (Octanis 1 has a panel size of 30cm x 30cm). Peel off the adhesive foil and set it aside. Place the non-adhesive side on a flat surface. Spray the clean solar cells with distilled water to get rid of dust.

Step 4: Layout & Solder the Cells

While the cells are still wet, place them on the non-adhesive side. Make sure you align them correctly (pay attention to the polarity).

Then solder them together using solar tabbing (get it on eBay). Octanis 1 uses a 7s2p (7 series, 2 parallel) configuration. Soldering is straightforward, use solder tin if necessary. Solder as you would solder a PCB.

Make sure you make the tabbing that goes out (where you will connect your load) is long enough.

Step 5: Prepare for Epoxy Pouring

When you're done with soldering, carefully stick the adhesive on to the solar cells. It should be sticking on the back side of the cells!

Turn over the panel and peel off the non-adhesive side.

Tape it onto a flat surface, make sure the tape is very strong. The epoxy has the potential to unstick the tape if it goes underneath it.

Step 6: Make a Border Out of Tape

... so the epoxy doesn't flow out. Again, this needs to stick well!

Step 7: Pour the Epoxy Resin

We used 10:6 two-part resin from OBI. For a panel size of 30x30cm we used 90ml of resin (A: 56ml, B: 34ml)

Step 8: Let the Resin Cure.

For faster curing (less than 5 days), leave it under a UV lamp.

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    47 Discussions

    aka ultrasonic jewelry cleaner.

    be sure to check out our new rover page. we'll be adding more info soon:

    http://octanis.org/rover/

    is there a materials list, like where to buy the stuff?

    Interesting project. What is the scope of the mission? Is it simply because you can or is this going to lead up to a more invested project? Perhaps testing certain novel devices in extreme temperatures?

    1 reply

    we like to push the limits of what's possible using the open source and maker approach. check out our wiki for more info http://octanis.org/wiki/

    In the textfor step 3 you state to place the foil non-adhisive side on a flat surface, then in step 4 you say to place the cells on the non-adhesive side. How do you do this when the non-adhesive sie is facing down, or is there an error in the text? Later on in step 5 the foil is stuck to to the panels and the non adhesive side taken off. This I find cinfusing are you using two seperate shgets of adhesive foil or is it in three layers with two non adhesive an one adhesive?

    1 reply

    more informetion abuots cells. I meen how to make one by my sellf

    1 reply

    if you really want to make the individual cells (not the panels!) yourself, try

    http://www.wikihow.com/Make-Solar-Cells

    Kinda OT, but what are your concerns about the weight of the Octanis and the winds in Antartica? Also are you planning to retrieve this thing after all the studies that you are planning to make?

    Also thanks to share this!

    1 reply

    the rover will be retrieved at some point, as abandoning it would not only be sad but would go against the antarctic treaty. our weight limit is 2.5kg.

    for the locations we're currently looking at winds are not too much of an issue. if we do get blown over, our wheel struts can put us back into position and we shouldn't take much damage. summer vs winter weather makes a difference.

    In step 4 you say " use solder tin if necessary " What do you mean ? are you talking about using flux ? or " pre-tinning " the connectors before soldering ? Or maybe you keep your solder in a " tin can " ( LOL )

    Cheers , take care , and have a good day !!

    1 reply

    solder as you would solder any wire (https://www.instructables.com/id/Soldering-101%3A-Lesson-1%3A-Tin-the-Tip/). make sure you dont short out the traces.

    I plan to make solar panel for my robot.

    Please can you tell me what is the weight of one solar cell of this type? (only the bare solar cell without cover or soldering )

    Where did you bought this solar cells?

    1 reply

    probably a couple of grams, the datasheet doesn't specify. you can get search for them on ebay.

    I really like this project but I seem to have missed some basic information. (Maybe you provided it and i just did not see it?) For starters, it's not clear to me why you cut the cells in that particular shape.

    1 reply

    The uncut Sun Power cell has those rounded corners. So they cut the cell into 3 pieces. The leftover 3rd piece is used for a different project, presumably. They used all end pieces and that's the shape you get. Look like boats.