Cost Effective Solar Cells: Copper Oxide Solar Cell Construction and Testing

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Intended Grade Level(s):
Learning Goal(s):
  1. Students will construct an oxidized copper sheet solar cell

  2. Students will test an oxidized copper sheet solar cell for voltage and current

Lesson Number:
Estimated Activity Length:
2 hours

This lesson is designed to be completed in one 80-minute section, but can be done in two 40-minute sections. The teacher will facilitate student construction of copper oxide plates with electric burners or hot plates. Teachers will guide students in making a basic solar-activated chemical battery with copper plates and salt water. Testing should take place both indoors and outdoors (weather-dependent). The solar cells are short-lasting and construction and testing preferably take place on the same day, although the cells can still show some slight reactivity after a 3-day (weekend) pause.

  • One 80-minute day: students construct and test copper oxide sheets indoors and outdoors

  • Two 40-minute days:

o Day 1: Students begin oxidation of copper sheets on electric hot plates, turn off hot plates, and leave oxidized copper sheets on the hot plates to cool slowly and un- disturber until the next day

o Day 2: Students remove oxidation layers and begin testing

Science Kit Material(s) Used:
Other Material(s) Used:
• 2 thin copper sheets (32 gauge or higher) • 2 Alligator Clips • Hot plate or electric burner • 250 mL beakers • Table salt • Multimeter