Sunday, 29 July 2007

Charge your batteries using the sun!

About 2 or 3 years ago I had it in mind to build a battery charger - the rate at which my family was getting through batteries was making my hair curl. At that time it was much cheaper to make your own out of a kit than to buy one in a shop. But then I suppose China happened and the price of chargers plummeted. So in the end I held out and finally bought one. Ok - not very adventurous but we needed one quickly before batteries bankrupted me.

My youngest wanted to have new batteries for his toy washing machine (don't ask) and that required a new set of rechargeables and, sadly (thinking of the double expense), a new charger.

But just take a look at our new battery charger in the picture...

It's solar powered - and also, as it should be, cheaper than the normal mains charger (about 50% cheaper, which is excellent). This is a little charger for charging up little cells (AAA,AA,C,D,...), but you can also get them large enough to charge up a car battery. Hook an inverter up to the car battery and you can power any 230V device (but pay attention to the power output of the inverter - you don't want to blow anything up). For a guilt-free gaming experience you can power your TV and Xbox using the sun!

There are three types of solar panel. Monocrystalline cells are cut from a single crystal of silicon. Polycrystalline, as the name suggests, is made from a number of crystals. The panels in our charger are polycrystalline. Can you see the way the sun is glinting of the crystals? The third type is amorphous and that's the kind you get in calculators (this type works better where the sun isn't out as often - e.g. around here).

According to Maplin (where I got this natty little thing from), if every mobile phone in the UK was charged with solar power the reduction in CO2 would be equivalent to planting an extra 292 million trees a year. So that can't be bad.

Oh, and what do you do with your old batteries? Throw them away? Well, what we should be doing is recycling them. Brussels (the city not the sprout) recycles 59% of its batteries. The UK recycles... err... 0.5% - which is pretty shameful considering they end up in a landfill (around here it is a big hole in the ground just up the road from Pershore) and they contain such delights as cadmium and mercury.

To buy a solar charger from Maplin click here.
You can pick up an inverter either from Maplin or from any camping shop.


Sebastian said...

Batteries seem cheaper for most people in the end :P.

I didn't know you had a blog, Mr. Wild. :)

The Maths Man said...

Unfortunately so. Because using rechargeable batteries means you don't have to buy as many manufacturers put the price up.

Hope you like the blog. It's an idea I'm trying out to show experiments you can try at home.