Solar Radio: The DIY Steps to Make One
Ever wonder how solar saved the radio? Solar power is an innovative option for powering gadgets and devices, such as the radio. By learning the process, you could bring your radio anywhere with you, even in places with no electricity, or you only have a limited supply of batteries.
Before learning the process, here’s a look at what you are trying to achieve. A solar-powered radio is a portable radio device getting its power source from photovoltaic panels. This kind of device was first introduced in the 1950s as an experiment conducted by General Electric.
The main catch of this kind of device is the elimination of batteries or electricity as an energy source. It can be used by people who often travel and those who live in remote places. A solar-powered radio makes it possible for many people to gather news and information even when there is a limited power source.
An Innovation for the Poor
Getting access to solar power is essential in boosting the socio-economic development of emerging nations. According to data, about 1.5 billion people living in developing nations don’t have access to electricity. Most of them are living in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.
These are the people who would benefit the most in the continuous development of solar-powered devices, including radio. The innovation will make it easier to communicate with them and for information to travel faster.
How Solar Saved the Radio
You can try turning your portable radio into a solar-powered one. First, you will need a portable radio and a solar panel. You may have solar panels at home that you rarely use, or you can get to repurpose them. Check your garden if you have those solar-powered LED lights. They are typically 4 to 4.5 volts 80 mA, which is good enough for this project. It is best to use the kind of panel with eight solar strips.
For the radio, you can use the kind powered by double or triple-A batteries. You can use even the old ones with corroded battery terminals.
Here are the other materials you will need to get started:
- NiMH rechargeable batteries (2 or 3 pieces), with each piece having at least 800 mAh capacity
- Black and red cable, each with a 6-inch length
- Solder and soldering iron
- BAT43 Schottky diode
- Adhesive foam strip and heat shrink sleeving (optional)
How to Make a Solar Powered Radio
Here are the steps in making your old radio function with the sun as its power source:
- If you will be using the solar panel from the garden light, you must first remove the panel from the base. This is typically easy as the panels are push-fit. Gently lift the panel from the body using a screwdriver. Be careful not to damage the panels. To remove it completely from the base, you will need to cut the connector wire.
- Detach the radio’s rear panel. Check the positive and negative connections using a multimeter.
- Solder the black wire to neutral and the red wire to positive.
- Create a small hole at one side of the radio using a drill. This is where you will insert the wires to reach the panel when it is ready.
- Solder the BAT43 Schottky diode to the panel’s positive terminal. This will protect the battery from voltage loss and reverse current when there is a limited power source. Use a multimeter to check that you have connected the diode properly.
- Position the solar panel at the back of the radio if the device can stand. You can place the panel in an angled manner so it would be easy to capture the sun when the radio is outside. If the radio is not the type that can stand, you can simply place the panel on its top. Secure the solar panel using double-sided tape.
- Insert the wires in the hole you created earlier until they can easily reach the panel. Solder the negative and positive wires to the panel.
- You can opt to cover the remaining bare joints using insulation tape or heat shrink tubing.
It is easy to get an old radio working with the use of solar panels. This is an easy project that doesn’t cost a lot; plus, it will save you money from buying batteries over and over again. Sun is a renewable energy source, so rest assured that you will be able to use your radio as long as you have access to the sun.