Fig 1: Individual solar cells and solar motor
Solar panels are connected to a small motor. When light falls on the panels, the motor runs.
This piece of equipment is usually found in kit from from many suppliers. It consists of several solar cells, a small low voltage motor and a plastic frame. The solar cells convert light energy from the sun or a bright lamp into electricity. Generally the larger the panel, the more electricity can be created.
The solar cells supplies in the kit usually have two terminals on the rear marked + and – and can be connected in series just as you would do with cells to create higher output voltages.
The motors included in the kit are generally 1.5-3V and can be replaced if needs be with similar miniature motors although some suppliers sell a special ‘solar motor’ which is better suited to these very low voltage/low current applications.
Many different kits are available nowadays including solar powered cars and robots, helicopters and boats. The kit described above is a low budget version of these kits comprising the most basic parts to show pupils the basic principles behind solar energy. Other examples of the uses of solar cells include solar powered radios, phone chargers and torches. Teachers may ask if you have examples of any of these to show students these principles in action. All can be purchased fairly inexpensively from lab suppliers and high street retailers.
The contents of this page are for information only. Please refer to CLEAPSS or ASE safety advice and/or publications before undertaking any preparation, practical experiment or using any equipment featured on this site or any other.
Solar Cells are semiconductor devices that convert photons from the sun into electricity. They are traditionally known as Photovoltaic Cells.