Science Project: Make Your Own Solar Panel From Soda Cans

Looking for an innovative science project? Below is a DIY solar project featuring empty soda cans that might fit the bill.

Having photovoltaic (PV) systems installed at your home is the simplest and most effective way to harness solar electricity, and GVEC Home® offers professional solar installation services. But if you prefer building something from scratch, you might love this practical approach to generating heat with a central solar thermal panel. Using scrap parts and empty soda cans, you can create a solar panel capable of heating a small area. Here’s how it’s done.

Assemble and Prep Your Cans

Here is a list of materials you will need for this project:

  • Aluminum/soda cans
  • Silicon adhesive
  • Plywood (15mm/0.6in) or sheet metal to make the frame
  • Matte black spray paint
  • Polycarbonate sheet (3mm/0.12in) or tempered glass
  • Tubes for air intake and output
  • Exhaust fan(s) and/or air pump(s)

Depending on the size of the unit you want to make, you may need to cut up between a few dozen to hundreds of soda cans. The cans are your solar panel cells.

Start by cutting the top off of each clean, dry can with a hole saw or a can opener. Then, cut a fin or star into the bottom. This creates a turbulent airflow through the soda cans, which can help to accumulate more heat within the panel. Be extremely cautious when prepping the soda cans.

Next, build the panel by gluing the cans together with the silicon adhesive. Place cans one on top of the other and side by side. Be sure to use a silicon adhesive that can withstand temperatures of at least 400 degrees.

Paint and Install Your Wall of Solar Cells

Build a wood or metal frame to hold your solar panel cells (soda cans). For the back, you can use metal or plywood. Next, spray the cans, frame, and back panel with black paint. This allows them to absorb and conduct UV heat better.

For the front, attach the glass or polycarbonate sheet to the front panel onto the frame. Install an air intake tube at the bottom or back-bottom of the frame and an air output tube at the top or back-top. Make sure you fill any gaps around the edges of the frame and openings for the tubes with heat-resistant silicone or adhesive tape.

Next, attach an exhaust fan to or place near the intake tube to pull cold air from the room into your panel. Attach the 2nd fan or air pump to or place near the output tube to pump the warmed air back into your living space.

To harness solar energy to a greater degree, our technicians can install high-end solar panels for your home in South Central Texas. We also sell and install Tesla Powerwall battery storage. Our other services include electrician services, A/C and heating services, community solar options, and more. Call GVEC Home today at 855.898.8807 for information or to schedule an appointment.