How to make solar cells (DIY/homemade solar cell)

This shows how to make and test a solar cell using a sheet of copper. These solar cells are basically sheets of copper with a layer of cuprous oxide (Cu2O) on them. The cuprous oxide is a semiconductor. You won’t get much electricity from it but it’s fun to make! More details can be found at Watch my how-to video, How to make a homemade solar cell with a sheet of copper on WonderHowTo. –

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  1. #1 by RimstarOrg at May 6th, 2010

    @hall274 Thanks! I’m happy you enjoyed it.

  2. #2 by 09robinsona at May 25th, 2010

    umm….solar cells are made with two layers doped silicon. Even if that works, that’s not really considered a solar cell. plus i think you just made a salt water battery, other wise known as a coin battery.

  3. #3 by RimstarOrg at May 26th, 2010

    @09robinsona Look up “Solar Cell” on wikipedia and you’ll see there are more types of solar cells than just silicon. Cuprous oxide isn’t used these days due to it’s extremely low efficiency but it does work. It was one of the first materials to demonstrate the photoelectric effect. Search google for “cuprous oxide solar cell”. As for a coin battery, I think you need two different metals.

  4. #4 by 8giorgos8 at June 4th, 2010

    would it work if you put a wire connecting the 2 panels instead of salt water

  5. #5 by RimstarOrg at June 8th, 2010

    @8giorgos8 It can be done without the salt water but it’s very difficult. You also wouldn’t need two panels, only one. One wire would be soldered to the copper itself. The other wire would be in good physical contact with the outer surface of the cuprous oxide – doing that is the hard part. For an example, google “Fun With Homebrew Cuprous Oxide Diodes” and on the first page that comes up, search that page for the word photovoltaic.

  6. #6 by cpa11225 at June 14th, 2010

    Try this and look for bubbles forming on the plates. You may be also seperating the hydrogen and oxygen (electrolysis).

  7. #7 by trailkeeper at July 20th, 2010

    Maby its not the greatest solarcell, but its still a good light sensor.

  8. #8 by ShawnHydedotcom at July 21st, 2010

    doesn’t this take more electricity to make then you are getting in return?

    what is the outut in watts?

  9. #9 by RimstarOrg at July 22nd, 2010

    @ShawnHydedotcom I didn’t measure voltage but one report on the web gives output of 12.5 microwatts (50 microamps x 0.25 volts). Taking into account just the time with the burner on, around 0.5 hours, that’s 0.5 x 1200 watts = 600 watt hours. 600 / 0.0000125 = 48 million hours to break even, roughly 5500 years! That’s why I said at the start of the video, they don’t produce much but are fun to make.

  10. #10 by ShawnHydedotcom at July 22nd, 2010

    @RimstarOrg I did see a video where they used standard solar cells that had been placed in a waterproof case then submurged in water. this increased the power output by 9.2% It seems that cooler they are the more effecient. You could easily make a hot water heater and solar panel in one to really gain the most effeciency.

  11. #11 by RimstarOrg at July 22nd, 2010

    @ShawnHydedotcom Yup, for PV, colder is better. I tested this a few years ago using a cheap small solar cell I bought at Radio Shack. I know of at least one product that does much what you say but uses air flowing behind the solar panels to take away the heat and at the same time uses the heated air to help heat a building. Google “solarwall pv/t”.

  12. #12 by natester632 at August 11th, 2010

    So the smaller one is the ” cooked” one and the other one is just normal copper sheet

  13. #13 by RimstarOrg at August 11th, 2010

    @natester632 Yes, that’s correct.

  14. #14 by natester632 at August 12th, 2010

    @RimstarOrg do you know how to do it if you have a gas stove???? i tried a pan and it didnt work, what do you suggest?

  15. #15 by RimstarOrg at August 13th, 2010

    @natester632 I don’t have any experience with a gas stove. But it sounds like you’re not getting enough heat to the copper. Maybe try just a sheet of aluminium foil between the burner and the copper or anything that will conduct the heat better to the copper? Warning: I don’t know the effect of putting aluminium foil directly on a gas burner, I’ve never used a gas stove! Make sure you have plenty of ventilation.

  16. #16 by jojojosmart at August 19th, 2010

    cooper kippper cuppric klipper kumpper crapper oxide

  17. #17 by springsummerxxx at September 5th, 2010

    it is just a battery, you idiot! — it is not solar cell.

  18. #18 by RimstarOrg at September 5th, 2010

    @springsummerxxx Batteries require two different metals.

  19. #19 by NewBrassMonkey at September 18th, 2010

    where do u connect the terminals if its just a flat sheet of copper/ copperic oxide?

  20. #20 by RimstarOrg at September 18th, 2010

    @NewBrassMonkey I have a red wire with aligator clips on both ends and a black wire with aligator clips on both ends. One end of the red wire is clipped to the meter’s positive probe and the other to an area of the cuprous oxide plate where I’ve scraped it down to the copper. One end of the black wire is clipped to the meter’s negative probe and the other to the plate that is all bare copper.

  21. #21 by smartstuff2buy at September 19th, 2010

    good video, just learn to focus

  22. #22 by smartstuff2buy at September 19th, 2010

    you said it was 10 microRems?
    do you mean 10 micro volts or something?

  23. #23 by RimstarOrg at September 19th, 2010

    @smartstuff2buy 10 microamps. Sorry for the back focus and bad sound. I was pressed for time when I made this.

  24. #24 by smartstuff2buy at September 25th, 2010

    @springsummerxxx why does it work more in the sunlight?

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