Homemade Solar Cells (Everything You Need to Know)

A Solar cell is an essential component of a solar panel, and it is a minor component in the solar panel that converts solar energy into electricity. The solar cells come inbuilt with the solar panels that we purchase.

Do you know that you can make your solar cell at home? Yes. The professionally made solar cells use a semiconductor sandwiched between metal and non-reflective glass layers. The semiconductor helps in the Photovoltaic effect and releases a flow of electrons when exposed to light.

Well, without spending much on each of these materials, you can create your solar cells with the help of materials that are much cheaper and readily available. If you have a science fair or science class demonstration coming up, you could very well make your solar cells.

Nevertheless, you can also use them for producing your solar energy for small devices. Let us discuss more homemade solar cells.

What is a solar cell?

Solar cells are thin silicon disks that help convert sunlight into electricity. These cells can be used on rooftop panels in residences, lighting, pumping, and medical refrigeration in villages in developing countries. 

The group of solar cells is called arrays made of thousands of solar cells. The arrays can be put together in a solar farm to convert the sunlight into electricity for commercial, industrial and residential use. The smallest group of solar cells is known as panels. 

Solar cells are used in many consumer products, including calculators, toys, and radios. These cells can use both sunlight and artificial light for power.

How does a solar cell work?

The working of a solar cell can get more technical, but let us try to understand.

Imagine a bunch of vegetables sandwiched in between two loaves of bread. In the same way, a solar cell is a sandwich of two silicon layers that helps generate electricity through sunlight. The electrons flow across the passage in between the two silicon layers.

When the sunlight hits the cells, the photons or the light particles stimulate the surface of the silicon. Once the simulation begins, the light particles carry the energy down to the cell. On reaching the bottom layer, the photos are converted to electrons.

These electrons use the energy generated to go up to the top silicon layer and escape via the circuit. When the electrons flow around the circuit, the appliances receive electricity.

How to Build A Solar Cell At Home

While building an entire solar panel requires greater skill and patience, a solar cell can be an easy task for a beginner. The solar cells also help learn about the properties of the solar panels.

It is a simple three-step process. Let us look at each of the methods in detail for better understanding.

Obtain Titanium Dioxide

Titanium Dioxide is a crucial component required for creating a solar panel. You can easily get white powdered donuts in the nearby supermarkets, and the donut powder contains a chemical called Titanium Dioxide.

The titanium Dioxide that you get in the donut powder will be mixed with sugar and fats. Pour the powder into a warm glass of water to remove them and stir it well. Once the water is stirred thoroughly, drain them using a filter. Make sure you use the water ratio is one cup of water for every five donuts.

The sugar content will dissolve in the water and get filtered. The remaining components are Titanium Dioxide and fats. Fats are not soluble in water. So, place the remaining components in a heat-safe dish and bake them for about three hours at 260 degrees Celsius. The Fat evaporates and leaves behind the pure Titanium Dioxide.

Create the Solar Cell

Once you have the purest form of Titanium Dioxide, the next step is to create the solar cell.

To create a solar cell:

  1. Take a conductive glass.
  2. Mix the Titanium Dioxide with ethanol in a glass and stir them well.
  3. Make sure you use one millimeter of ethanol per donut and stir the solution well.

The Conductive glass is coated with Indium Tin Oxide residue, enabling the glass’s surface to conduct electricity. These glasses are usually square-shaped.

Next, put a layer of tap across the three sides of the glass. Drop a small droplet of the Titanium Dioxide and ethanol mixture on the surface of the glass. Use a microscopic slide to wipe off the excess liquid and repeat the same process ten times.

Each drop should be able to coat the glass with a thin layer. So, in the end, you might have ten layers of Titanium Dioxide. The structure of your solar cell is ready.

Place the solar cell in a heatproof dish and put it on a hotplate. Please turn on the hotplate and cook it for ten to twenty minutes.

You will have to notice the changes happening to the solar cell during this process. The solar cell turns brown on cooking and then turns back to white.

When the cell goes back to the white color, it indicates that the ethanol has burned off and the cell has completed heating.

The next step is to prepare a cup of herbal tea and submerge the solar cell inside the tea for a few hours. But what can herbal tea do to the solar cell? Tea contains organic compounds like anthocyanins—these compounds aid in capturing light. Hibiscus tea works the best. 

This process will help in binding the surface of the cell with anthocyanins. The solar cell is now ready to absorb and capture visible light.

Generate Electricity

To generate electricity, take another piece of conductive glass and rub the tip of a regular graphite pencil over the entire surface of the glass. This glass acts as a counter-electrode, and hence its surface needs to be filled with graphite.

Now, prepare a solution mixing iodine and alcohol in the ratio of 3:1. I.e., three drops of iodine for one drop of alcohol. Iodine is the best electrolyte and is readily available over the counter at pharmacies.

Once the solution is ready, place one or two drops between the two glasses.

The solution evaporates quickly. So, press the two glasses firmly before the solution evaporates. 

You can use alligator clips to hold them tightly. Your solar cell can now generate electricity. 

To test, place the cell in the sunlight and use a multimeter to check the current levels.

Take away

Now, let us answer. Do you know how to make a solar cell at home? Yes. Now, we know how to make a solar cell with easily accessible items at home. What are you waiting for when you can create your solar cell? Oh yes. The next science project is coming up. All the best, and rock it. You know it all.