Full Project – Construction of a solar powered multiple phone charger

Full Project – Construction of a solar powered multiple phone charger

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1.1     Background of Study

Given the current energy crisis and increasing need for sustainable energy in Nigeria. We endeavor to create a cost effective, small-scale electrical generator which could be used to power consumer electronics. Solar energy has proven its worth as an alternative energy source because it is low-impact and emission free. It has been implemented with much success for power grids with hundreds of acres of enormous solar concentrations. In the small-scale, solar energy has been harvested through the use of photovoltaic (PV) panels and have been used to power anything from an iPod to a residential home.


Although PV systems are considered part of the green energy revolution, materials utilized for it construction (like silicon) are extremely dangerous to the environment and much care must be taken to ensure that they are recycled properly. PV cells also only utilize the energy stored in specific wavelengths of light and therefore have an approximate efficiency between 14-19%. Sunlight, however, produces immense amounts of heat which only serves to heat up the surface of the solar cell. Although there are some PV cells that have reached efficiency levels over 40% (world record is 41.6%), they are enormously complex and expensive.

Cell phones have become an extremely popular device in the entire world and it is easy to say they are part of our daily lives. In the year 2010 there was an estimate of over 4.6 billion cell phones worldwide and the number has been growing by more than a billion ever since; this translates to more than half the world’s population. Both the developed and the developing world countries are buying more cell phones, but it is in developing countries where the cell phone growth stays the strongest. However, cell phones need electric sources to charge their batteries in order to work, but there are people in developing and third world countries that find it hard to access electric sources. For example, one resident of a village in Tanzania describes how he takes all seven of the village‘s mobiles down to a nearby town with electricity to charge all seven mobiles. Obviously, this is quite different than what we see in the United States or other developed countries. Their inability to access a centralized power grid is due to either or the combinations of two things; the cost of constructing transmission lines to their homes, or the inability to construct transmission lines due to their location.In an attempt to provide an alternative means of charging to those unfortunate areas in third world and developing countries, a solar powered multiple cellphones charging booth is to be designed and constructed in this project. However, the focus of this project is specifically to design and construct a multiple cell phones charger powered by solar energy.

Solar power is the practical add-on to the existing sources of energy. It effectively supplements the current sources of energy. With intelligent designs, the solar cells can be integrated into the final consumer electronic or portable devices. This reduces the dependence of recharging these with the electricity, thus making this ideal choice for the locations where electricity may not be actually available. The solar panels are costly today but their costs are coming down to affordable levels. Also many a times the government aids are available especially for the remote areas.

With the solar panels being available in various form factors, a range of consumer electronic devices making use of the solar panels are making entry into the market place and it is expected that this trend would continue in the future. As of now there are speakers, earphones, calculators and other small power consuming devices already available. The trend is to integrate the solar power in the small form factor that enhances the battery life and acts as an additional source of energy to supplement the battery power from other sources. As the efficiency of the solar panels and conversion would become better, a lesser area would be able to generate more energy and
eventually the solar charging may become the sole energy source in many consumer devices.


1.2     Statement of Problem

According to the International Energy Agency, in 2011 1.4 billion people around the world did not have access to electricity. And most users of cell phone in rural areas find difficulty in charging their cell phones. Therefore this project is to overcome the problem and also to create a means of charging a number of cell phones simultaneously. The Solar cell phone charging booth runs solely on produced sustainable energy in the form of DC power. The project has no dependence on the power grid.

The system consists of Solar PV, a solar charge controller, USB port and cell phone battery. A solar charger is similar to the voltage regulator. It regulates the voltage and current that is coming from the solar panels and going to the battery. My goal by the end of the semester is to have a product that provides safe, cheap, clean and reliable energy to under-privileged families, villages and areas of developing and third world countries.


1.3     Research Objectives                                         

The aim of this project is to construct a working solar powered multiple cell phones charger to charge a number of cell phones simultaneously.

The objectives are as follows:

  1. To design a working solar charger circuit for the project.
  2. To arrange and solder the component according to the design circuit.
  3. To connect the solar charger circuit with the solar panel.
  4. To construct a well packaged housing for the project.
  5. To test and evaluate the performance of the developed device.

1.4     Contribution to Knowledge

Solar power is one of the widely available energy sources. It has been in focus worldwide and solar installations of capacities in megawatts order are reality today. The efficiency of the solar panels remains low even today and the requirement of ensuring highest efficiency outside the panel remains stringent. Thanks to this, several techniques have been deployed to harness the maximum energy, Maximum Power point tracking being one of them.


Consumer electronic devices typically need few watts and many of these devices/gadgets now use USB port for charging. The standardization to USB voltage presents opportunity to design more and more chargers that conform to this form factor and voltage requirements. Solar charging is slow and this presents another challenge of keeping the devices in the sunlight (daytime). This may not be always practical and hence there is a need to have battery backup solutions.

Solar USB chargers can be used to charge gadgets like mobiles, PMP, PDA’s and even e-book readers or any other devices that use a USB or mini USB interface. It can be especially useful during

  • Conferences/All Day Meetings
  • Camping trip /Picnic
  • Power outages
  • Natural disasters
  • No access to power outlet

1.5     Limitation of the Project

They are slow: Despite technological advances, charging a device with a solar charger is usually slower than through a traditional outlet. To give you an example, an average charger takes about 2 or 3 hours to charge a mobile phone, that in case it has been left all the time in maximum sun exposure but charging with solar will take more time.

1.6     Methodology

The goal of the project was to take an input of 12 volts from solar panel and convert the voltage to 5 volts output for charging cellular devices.

By using the resources at hand, I designed the solar cell phone charger. The design was a 12 volts input, 5 volts output via USB ports. Using the project board, I ensured that the output was within technical specifications necessary to ensure the safety of the cell phone battery. I also took into consideration in design the cost and size, trying to minimize both to make an inexpensive, yet quality product.

1.7 Definition of Terms

  1. Photovoltaic Panel: They transform sunlight into DC electrical energy, as this energy passes through the charge controller that manages the battery charging and discharging process, which stores the energy generated by the panels.
  2. Charger: A charger is a device used for charging or recharging batteries.
  • USB: Universal Serial Bus (USB) is an industry standard that establishes specifications for cables, connectors and protocols for connection, communication and power supply (interfacing) between computers, peripherals and other computers.
  1. Circuit: An electronic circuit is composed of individual electronic components, such as resistors, transistors, capacitors, inductors and diodes, connected by conductive wires or traces through which electric current can flow.
  2. Charge Controller: Charge controllers are crucial in electrical systems to prevent batteries from being damaged by overcharging and over-discharging by controlling the current flow from and to the batteries. They can also protect the appliances that are connected to the batteries. Most batteries can hardly recover after overcharging and over-discharging, so the employment of controllers can prolong the service life of the batteries.



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Full Project – Construction of a solar powered multiple phone charger