How to save electricity? This question, many of us ask ourselves. We now know that gas and electricity bills will each increase by 15%. In some countries like the UK, these increases show record rates of 80% according to the newspaper The world. In France, the government has set up a price shield for individuals. In order to save energy, we immediately think of solar energy which is free, ecological and renewable, but solar panels are expensive. Did you know you can make your own small solar panel with old CDs ? Of course, it will not allow you to do without the electricity network, but it will be able to recharge a Smartphone or illuminate a small flashlight. And these days, a solution to pay less on your bills is always welcome. Explanations.

What materials to make a solar panel with CDs?

We all have old CDs lying around at the bottom of our cupboards ! Some use them to scare away birds and prevent them from devouring cherries in the spring, while others turn them into mobiles for children. Unless you’re a collector, of course, CDs are a bit “outdated”. If you want to recycle them usefully, group them together and set their number according to the size of your future solar panel. You will also need to have the following items:

  • a stiff cardboard or plywood board, a flat piece of plastic and paint it or cover it with a black cloth;
  • Zener diodes designed to maintain a fixed voltage across the diode when it is reverse biased;
  • copper wire;
  • insulated electrical wire;
  • a hot glue gun and quick set sticks;
  • a soldering iron;
  • cutting pliers;
  • a voltmeter to check for proper operation.

Step 1: installing the copper wires on the CDs

The first step is to hot glue copper wires on each CD. Place the end of the thread near the central circle, then extend them towards the edges forming a curved line (in S) and bring it back to the center. Form three or four loops from the same yarn, to cover the entire circumference of the CD. The back of your CD should look like a geometric painting, made of sinuous serpentine lines. In the center of the CD should normally be the ends of each wire. Obviously, this operation will have to be repeated on each of the CDs. An explanatory video is available on YouTube.

The installation of the copper wires on the Laser Disc. Photo credit: American Tech (YouTube screenshot)

Step 2: installing the Zener diodes

Once all your CDs are equipped with copper wires, you will need to fix the diodes Zener between the free ends of the copper wires in the center of the disc. It is then enough to take the soldering iron and to fix the end of each diode on the end of the wires. One pair of ends must remain free to allow connection with insulated electrical wires later. Then connect the two insulated wires to the ends of the copper wire.

L’installation des diodes Zener.
Installation of Zener diodes. Photo credit: Invexlab españa (YouTube screenshot)

Fix the CDs on your black support then connect them together to form a unique electrical circuit. To test your solar panel, simply connect your voltmeter to the two ends of insulated electrical wires and you determine the voltage generated. Don’t expect to be able to charge your electric car. However, it is a nice little activity to do when winter afternoons can seem much longer than in summer!

Edit of February 6, 2023: We have not tested the functionality of this small solar panel. It will not allow you to heat your house, nor to do without electricity, but perhaps the occasion of a small scientific experiment or a small educational workshop. The CDs are obviously not conductive, but serve as a support for the wires and diodes. It is also an idea to recycle them!

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