In this little short guide, we are going to show you how to make a solar panel with a CD. It's great for a science project for kids, high school students and even adults for practical educational applications.
This guide will teach you how to repurpose these CDs into solar panels and how to generate electricity.
Let's get started!
Brief Overview Objectives
Constructing a CD solar panel can serve as a fun science experiment for students or as an interesting DIY project. As we dive into how to make a solar panel with a CD, hopefully, you’ll be able to learn more about free solar energy, and just how useful solar energy is for our day to day life.
Tools & Materials Needed
To get started, the following items are required:
- CD (of course)
- Copper wire
- Zener diodes
- Insulated electrical wire
- Soldering iron
- Wire cutters
- Small low-voltage device
If you don’t have any CDs lying around the house, chances are that someone you know will. In other more dire cases, we recommend heading to a used record store to find some cheap compact discs. You can also get some from Amazon here.
4 Steps to Making a Solar Panel with a CD
There are 4 main steps to build your own solar panel with a CD:
- Glue the copper wire to the shiny side of the CD
- Connect the Zener diodes to the gaps of the copper wire
- Connect the insulated wires to the remaining ends of the copper wire
- Attach the insulated wires to a voltmeter or simple device to test it out!
Step #1: Attach the Copper Wire
Gluing the copper wire to the shiny backside of the CD, so the CD will no longer be functional. There are several ways this can be done, but a popular method is by bending the copper wire into separate curved sections.
To start, you can glue the very end of the copper wire near the center hole of the CD. Next, you’ll want to extend the copper wire up to the edge of the disc, form a hairpin bend, then bring it back to the center hole.
Repeat this process as you go in a circle around the CD, gluing the wire as needed. After every 3 or 4 bends, you’ll want to cut the wire near the center hole and start a new section. In the end, the wire should slightly resemble petals around a flower.
When making a solar panel from a CD, you can experiment with different types of wire placement to see what works best, as there are several alternative designs.
Step #2: Attach the Zener Diodes
After the copper wire has been glued and left to dry, you’ll need to attach the Zener diodes. The Zener diodes are used to help regulate the voltage.
These diodes should be placed in the gaps between the cut portions of copper wire. Using a soldering iron, solder the ends of the copper wire to the ends of the Zener diodes. Make sure to leave one of the gaps open, for this is where you’ll connect the insulated wires in the next step.
Step #3: Connect the Insulated Electrical Wire
Once the Zener diodes have been soldered to the copper wire, it’s time to connect the insulated electrical wire to your DIY CD solar panel. You can use a knife or small blade to clean up the very ends of the wires to form a better connection.
Here, you will use the soldering iron once again to fuse together the two remaining copper wire ends to the insulated electrical wire ends. After this step, you are essentially done creating your simple CD solar panel. All that you have left to do is test it out!
Step #4: Test it Out!
Choose a sunny day and head outside with your CD solar panel. This is where a voltmeter or tiny low voltage device will be useful.
Connect your solar panel to the voltmeter using the electrical wires and set the CD in direct sunlight. If it is working correctly, you should see the reading on the meter increase with sunlight exposure. You can also try covering the CD solar panel with your hand, or placing it in the shade, to see how the reading reacts.
If your new solar panel seems to be generating power, you can try wiring it to a small low-voltage device to check if you’ve successfully created a source of free solar energy.
What are the Practical Uses of a CD Solar Panel?
Learning how to make a solar panel from a CD is undoubtedly an educational experience. This DIY project allows for hands-on learning, where you can actually witness the results of your work.
Making a solar panel from a CD is a perfect learning experience for people of all ages. Children, students, and adults can all benefit from this project. For many, it can serve as a gateway to pursuing more advanced solar projects and expanding their knowledge of renewable energy.
Check out our list of solar panel science projects for beginners here.
Student Science Project
By using only a few common items and the power of the sun’s rays, you can demonstrate an example of electricity production.
Younger students will need supervision as this project does require the use of a soldering iron, but all of the other essential materials are readily available and won’t cost an arm and a leg.
Yes, this DIY CD solar panel can serve as a fun homemade toy. Deciding what you want to power with your solar panel is entirely up to you. While its overall power output may be limited, many choose to power small handheld fans or even miniature lights.
Once you’re confident with how to make a solar panel with a CD, you can get creative and find new fun uses for your solar panel.
Cheap Energy Source
Most of us have tons of old CDs lying around, so why not put them to use? Capturing solar energy through CDs and copper wires is a cheap way to generate real energy. Once your CD solar panel is constructed, all of the energy generated will be from free readily available sunlight.
As mentioned, this won’t provide enough energy to power your devices. Please check out our portable solar panel chargers that are proven to work for practical real life uses.
Even though CD solar panels can't really be used for serious real world application, but it provides people at home some experimental opportunities.
We also have a shoe box solar oven cooker build guide, if you're interested in checking out here on the site.
Now that we’ve thoroughly discussed how to make a solar panel with a CD, it’s time for you to go give it a shot yourself. Feel free to adjust minor details as needed in order to make a successful panel. Solar power is a great eco-friendly way to harness free energy, and this DIY CD solar panel shows just how simple it can be in some cases.
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