Build Your Own
Solar CarSolar Car
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Not only is the sun a source of heat and light, it’s asource of electricity too! Solar cells, also calledphotovoltaic cells, are used to convert sunlight toelectricity. Solar cells are used to provideelectricity all kinds of equipment, from calculatorsand watches to roadside emergency phones andrecreational vehicles.
Solar panels are becoming common on many homes.
Solar cells are most commonly made from silicon,the same material used to make computer chips.Silicon is one of the Earth’s most commonelements, and is a major component of sand andmany kinds of rocks. A solar cell is built like asandwich, with two layers of silicon separated by athin layer of insulating material. All three layerswork together to convert sunlight into electricity.When sunlight falls onto the solar cell, it producesa small electric charge. Like a battery, the chargeis positive on one side of the cell, and negative onthe other. A wire connects the two sides of thecell, allowing electricity to flow. This flow, orcurrent, of electricity can be used to power a smalllight bulb, turn an electric motor, or recharge abattery.Solar cells are often used in locations where thereisn’t any electricity and where electricity is neededin small amounts. In such cases, solar cells areusually connected to batteries, allowing electricityto be stored for use during times when the sunisn’t shining.A single solar cell is able to produce only a smallamount of electricity. But solar cells can beconnected together on a multi-cell panel toproduce larger amounts of electricity. As withbatteries, the more cells that are connected to oneanother, the greater the current of electricity thatcan be produced.
Solar panels can produceenough electricity to power satellites, recreationalvehicles, and equipment for other applicationswhere electricity is used in large amounts.For this project, you will be using the electricityfrom solar panels to power a small car. Yourchallenge will be to build a solar car that travels asfast and straight as possible.
A completed solar car.
These step-by-step instructions provide you with aplan for making a basic solar car. If you can think of ways to improve the design of your car, trythem out. Experiment with the materials.
Solar cells connected in series (in a long chain, positive tonegative, etc.) will increase the voltage of the panel. Solarcells connected in parallel (all their positive terminals to onewire, and all their negative terminals to another wire) willincrease the current, or amperage of the panel. In most largecommercial panels, the individual cells are connected bothways, with rows of cells in series to raise the voltage of thepanel, and then those rows connected to each other inparallel, to raise the amperage.