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"

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Step 1: 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

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

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

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

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.

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    47 Discussions


    4 years ago

    it seems simple think i have a few laying around


    4 years ago on Introduction

    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


    6 years ago on Introduction

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


    6 years ago on Introduction

    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

    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.

    1 reply

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    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).


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    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


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    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.


    8 years ago on Step 5

    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!

    1 reply

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    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.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    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?

    3 replies

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

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


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    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.


    11 years ago on Introduction

    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.

    1 reply

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

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