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Science Project For Kids - How Solar Panels Work?

by Marc Andrews on December 26, 2022
how solar panels work kids science project

With Solar panels becoming more and more popular lately, they have sparked the curiosity of kids, making them wonder how they work. For a while now they have been a big part of the ongoing renewable energy revolution that aims to use the naturally replenished sources available on Earth to reduce pollution and increase sustainability . Having kids understand how this technology works is important to have them better grasp its benefits but also lay the ground for improving it in the future.

Some might be surprised to learn that solar panels have been around for a long time. In 1839 French physicist Edmond Bequerel was the first to notice that some materials could cause an electrical charge when exposed to sunlight.

The first commercially available solar panels were not developed until 1881 by American inventor Charles Fritts. His early solar panels were coated with selenium and a thin layer of gold and they worked but were inefficient and very expensive when compared to other forms of power at the time.

Today solar power technology has greatly improved from these early first steps. The photovoltaic cells of today’s solar panels are made from inexpensive silicon making them easily affordable.  And since the early part of this century scientists and engineers have worked together to make the generation of solar power increasingly practical and efficient.

How Solar Panels Work

Solar panels work by absorbing the light from the sun and turning it into an electrical current. Solar panels are made of a layer of silicon cells, also known as solar cells or photovoltaic cells(PV), covered by a glass film that protects them. The whole assembly is sustained by a metal frame which also features connecting wires. The panels are usually black to make it easier to absorb the light. These cells are grouped together in various ways to maximize their effect. To create an electric field inside the cells, inside of each one of them there are 2 layers of silicon, one charged positively and one negatively. When the cells are exposed to the sun, the photons energize these cells making it so electrons come loose from the atoms within the cell. The electric field from the cells sets in motion these electrons creating an electrical current. The cell groups are connected so the current is sent to the wires of the solar panel which sends it to charge a rechargeable battery or to be used by a device directly.

solar powered toy
solar powered truck
sun powered toys

Solar power toys

Solar powered toys are a fantastic example of how solar panels work and how small objects can be powered with renewable energy. The most popular and basic examples are the solar powered dancing toys sometimes called bobbers which liven up any window sill or car dashboard.  You just position the toy where it can catch the sunlight and it moves in perpetual motion, dancing until night time. These toys have a simple setup with a coil and a magnet on the bottom. The small solar panel charges a small capacitor which discharges pulses of current into the coil which creates an electromagnetic field that moves the magnet on the bottom of the toy. These are the most simple of all the solar power toys on the market but they are not the only way of utilizing solar energy for fun. Today solar power toys harness energy in a way that would have been unimaginable to the early inventors.

So how do our solar panels work on a toy car?

The mechanism on our solar power racing car kit is sophisticated yet actually very simple.

The motor connects directly to the solar panel through a socket and once it is exposed to sunlight, it spins the back wheels using an engine gear and a axle gear connected together. The solar panel used for the Solar Race Car  from TOYLOGS measures 60x60mm and it can generate up to 2V power, enough to move the electrical engine it comes with. There are 8 groups of cells on this solar panel that can generate up to 200Ma of electrical current.

Car companies such as Toyota, Nissan and Audi are incorporating the same principles to harness solar energy for family cars. 

Why is a solar power racing car kit such a great toy for children?

Our solar power racing car kit is fun to assemble. The child can build his or her own racing car from scratch and customize it with the stickers provided. Once it is built, and it really is very simple, the child will have learned a lot about solar energy and technology.

Because the racing car is made from wood, it is environmentally sound. The solar powered dancing toys are fun but they will add to plastic pollution. With the solar power racing car kit you know that you are not unwittingly adding to plastic pollution and landfill.

For the engineers of the future, the solar power racing car kit is the perfect place to start, making it a great example on how solar panels work. It can spark a lifetime of interest in renewable technology which could be life changing when it comes to the health of our planet.