How to Build a Solar Panel | How Solar Panels Work
To figure out how to build a solar panel properly, you should first know how solar panels work. Gone are the days when the idea of tapping into the great energy and power of the sun was laughed at and thought to be impossible. The advent of modern technology has made such concept feasible. Today, aside from giving off heat and light, the sun’s energy is also converted into other types of energy that man can use readily, like electricity. This process is achieved with the use of solar panels.
A solar panel is simply any sort of panel that makes use of solar thermal energy in order to generate electricity. These panels come in various types and are used for either heating water or storing solar energy. Although panels may vary in function, they basically have a flat surface. This is necessary since the surface must face a ninety-degree angle from the rays of the sun for optimum results.
A solar panel is composed of many individual cells that collect solar energy. These cells are named solar cells and are covered with a protective glass sheet. Solar cells are devised to produce electricity, and these cells then generate power when sunlight strikes them.
Because of their need for sunlight in order to bring about electricity, solar cells are also called photovoltaic cells. Photo is the Greek word for light, and voltaic is in reference to Alessandro Volta, one of the pioneers in electricity.
Here is a simple explanation on how solar panels work. Once it captures sunlight, a solar cell yields a few volts of electricity. Since there are plenty of solar cells that compose a solar panel, the total amount of electricity produced can be pretty big. The panel combines all the energy, which results to a greater current and voltage of electricity.
How to Build a Solar Panel | Solar Cells and Silicon
The solar cells are manufactured from silicon, one of the most abundant elements on earth. When the sun’s rays hit a solar cell, its solar energy causes electrons (negative electric charges) to blow out from the silicon. These electrons travel in an electric circuit and give power to anything that needs electricity to function.
For a more detailed description on how to build a solar panel, it is crucial to learn more about silicon. Silicon in its outer shell is composed of four electrons. Yet this element can hold up to eight electrons. When four electrons are shared with similar silicon atoms and the four shell electrons of these atoms, then the eight-electron capacity is filled. This distinct combination of silicon atoms forms a strong, stable bond. This bond is called pure, crystalline silicon.
However, since there are no electrons that are able to move around, this type of silicon conducts electricity poorly. The silicon is better combined with some other substance to create impurities, which are needed for the silicon to conduct electricity better.
One example of such an element is phosphorus. Of the five electrons available, silicon can use up only four of these. This leaves one electron to roam around for a spot of its own.
These roaming electrons are called free carriers. These free carriers tote their own electrical current.
Silicon can also be combined with an element that sports three electrons. One example of such an element is boron. When you combine silicon and boron, this blending of elements produces holes, which are necessary to aid in the conduction of electricity.
How to Build a Solar Panel | Electromagnetic Radiation
The different combinations of silicon with the other elements, as well as the different electrical charges among the elements, are then utilized for the creation of solar panels. This is how solar panels work. Sunlight streams down, and streaming down with it are photons, or quanta or electromagnetic radiation.
When the photons hit the silicon, things get shaken up. Remember the free carriers, those roaming electrons from the combination of silicon and phosphorus? These free electrons are then forced to move to the outer ring. It is from the outer ring that the electrons are then sucked into the outer ring of the combination of silicon and boron. It is from this process that electricity is generated.
Although the process of converting solar energy to electricity sounds very promising, the process is quite inefficient as only about 30 percent of the power of the sun can be harnessed for usable electricity.
The materials that make up the design of the panel as well as the proportions of the panel itself partly contribute to this inefficiency. It is therefore of utmost important to have a thorough understanding on how solar panels work to be able to come up with more effective ideas and materials to create more efficient solar panels.
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How to Build a Solar Panel | How to Build a Solar Cell
The sun is one of the biggest and most powerful source of energy man can ever harness. To tap into the energy of this great big ball of fire, man, together with modern technology, has come up with the concept of using solar panels to aid in the process of converting solar energy to electricity. This technology is then used in homes and commercial establishments.
To make things friendly on the pocket, some people have resorted to building their own solar panels. Solar panels are composed of solar cells. If you want to learn how to build a solar panel and a solar cell, then this article is for you.
How to Build a Solar Panel | List of Tools You Will Need :
• Alligator clips
• Bunsen burner
• Ethanol solution
• Glass plates
• Glass rods
• Graphite pencil
• Mortar and pestle
• Nanocrystalline titanium dioxide
• Petri dishes
To prepare the suspension of titanium dioxide, follow these steps:
1. Using the mortar and pestle, grind the titanium dioxide into tiny particles. Some common items where you can find titanium dioxide are titanium white paint and whitening toothpaste.
2. Overlie the powdered suspension to the glass plate. Use the glass rod to make sure the suspension is spread evenly on the plate. Note that an even coating of titanium dioxide is necessary to speed up the reaction rate.
3. Sinter the titanium dioxide. This process reduces the resistivity of the said element. The ideal temperature of the plate is 450 °C or 842 °F. To achieve this desired temperature, sinter the plate over a Bunsen burner flame, making sure to place it near the tip. Fifteen minutes of constant, steady exposure should be sufficient for the particles in the titanium dioxide to form into a kind of film.
Once you are done formulating the suspension, you now need to sensitize the solar cell. To do this, follow these steps to help you learn how to build a solar cell:
1. Crush a handful of fresh or frozen berries. You may make use of the mortar and pestle to come up with a deep red or deep purple fluid. For this purpose, any kind of berries will do, such as blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, red hibiscus tea, or pomegranate seeds. The fluid produced from the berries is used as dye.
2. Take an electrode and coat it in a film of titanium dioxide. When this is accomplished, apply the fluid from the berries into its surface. Check that the dye is spread uniformly. If the film appears to be stained unevenly, it may help to soak the film in the berry fluid for five minutes.
3. Use the ethanol solution to rinse the plate. With a tissue paper, gently blot the plate dry.
4. With an eyedropper, place a few drops of iodine solution on the plate. The iodine solution functions as the electrolyte in the cell. The electrolyte completes the circuit and regenerates the dye.
Have you initially thought that knowing how to build a solar panel and cell is tough? Well, you’re in for a surprise. You’re almost done! All you need to do is follow the remaining steps, and you will never wonder how to build a solar cell again. Making a solar panel is a little involved, but it is worth it in the end.
To make the second electrode, follow these simple steps:
1. Grab another glass plate coated with a suspension of titanium dioxide and graphite pencil. To know which side of the plate is conductive, rub your fingers along the plate’s surface. Note that the conductive side is the rougher side. Mark the conductive side with the graphite pencil.
2. Arrange this electrode atop the electrode with the dye. Each plate needs to expose some surface area. To do this, reel the plates from side to side. These exposed areas will serve as contact points for both positive and negative electrodes, enabling you to extract electricity and sample whether your cell works or not.
3. With the aid of the gator clips, connect the two plates together. And there you have it, your very own solar cell.
If you want to know the exact amount of power and energy harnessed by your solar cell, use a multimeter. Also, as with any activity involving chemicals, it is highly recommended you use protective gloves and a protective mask during the entire procedure.
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