Video: DIY Solar Cell from Cuprous Oxide

by New Physicist on

You need to have two pieces of copper sheets. Similar in size. 4-6 inch in width. Then clean both surfaces of both copper plates thoroughly. Use a degreaser to remove any oils or grease from your copper sheet. Do not let the oil to react with the copper or to prevent oxidation from happening. You should also wear gloves to avoid getting oil from your skin on the copper. Also, be sure to scrub the copper with steel wool or sandpaper to remove any corrosion.

DIY Solar cell

Now place one of the copper plates on a hot plate. I suggest you to use a hot plate instead of a gas stove to get perfect oxide layer on both surfaces of the copper plate. Place a sheet on the hot plate,  turn the hotplate on. This will heat the copper and provide the energy needed for the copper to react quickly with the oxygen in the air. This speeds up the natural oxidation process considerably.

As the copper heats up you can see varying shades of red, pink, purple, and possibly other colors. This is a sign that oxidation is taking place. Oh Great! Finally, you will notice that these colors are all being replaced by a black covering. This covering is cupric oxide. Once the whole sheet is covered in cupric oxide, allow it to cook at least thirty more minutes. Cooking the extra thirty minutes makes it break away from the copper very easily.

When you finish cooking the copper, turn the burner off. Leave the copper on the burner to cool. This allows the copper to cool very slowly. During the cooling process, the copper and the cupric oxide layer shrink at different rates.  As long as your cupric oxide layer is thick enough, this will result in the black cupric oxide flaking off and exposing the red cuprous oxide layer.

A thin layer of cupric oxide would remain on the copper, covering up the cuprous oxide layer that needs to be exposed. Keep in mind that Cuprous oxide is a semiconductor and must be exposed in order to make the solar cell function. And don’t try to remove all of the black cupric oxides. It may damage the cuprous oxide layer. Okay, the semiconductor is ready.

Electrolyte Preparation

Now let me prepare the electrolyte. Dissolving salt into the water will provide electrolytes that carry the current from the cuprous oxide layer to the clean copper sheet. An effective solution can be prepared from 1:3 salt to water ratio. Now, place the two copper plates into the container. One is oxidized and the other is clean copper.


Place the container in sunlight and connect alligator clips to each copper sheets. Connect copper sheet with a cuprous oxide layer to the clip that will lead to the positive terminal of the multimeter. And the clean copper sheet to the negative terminal.

When the sunlight hits the cuprous oxide layer electrons release. The cuprous oxide is not conductive, but the electrons are able to move through the salt water to the conductive copper plate. This plate transfers the electrons to the wires. Don’t forget to Set your meter to read microamps. Now you can see A very small amount of current flowing through the multimeter.

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However, Turning the cell so that the cuprous oxide layer is facing the most direct sunlight will give you the most current. Unfortunately, this method is not efficient for powering even led. It is best suited to show the chemistry involved in making solar panels rather than a viable solar panel.

The contradiction is that it would require acres of land and millions of dollars of copper just to produce enough power to run the hot plate used to cook the copper plate. Anyway, if you think this video about the DIY solar cell is useful, share this page with your friends.

Written by: New Physicist

Aromal Karuvath (New Physicist) is a Renewable energy enthusiast, DIY project maker, Traveller, Crazy Reader, Thinker.. Love to wander around the world.. He has a Dream "100% renewably powered planet Earth.

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