Just a month ago in Innovation Lab, on April 3rd 2016, we were introduced with a new Project called “Eureka! It’s battery power!”. We were told that we could do anything, anything that we wanted and anything that our hearts desired. The only requirement was to create something that involved a battery or something that helped us learn the understanding of how batteries work. Once I chose a group, we decided that we wanted to create a solar panel backpack to charge electronics like our cell-phones.
We wanted to create something that looked like this:
This type of battery was important to us to know because it was in our solar panel, and it stores energy 4x better than any other battery when it comes to charging a phone. After finding out this information, we had to figure out why this battery can store this much energy, so that’s exactly what we did. After researching, we realized that the only time a battery can charge fast is when the current is high. This was incredibly important for us to know for us to fully understand how and why the phone was going up from 50% to 80% in 30 minutes. While testing my cell-phone and sometimes other people’s phones, we tried to charge the phone on a very sunny day and a sunny cloudy day to see the difference. Here is the data that we took:
|12:30||74% (blockage of sun)|
|1:18||At 1:18pm from 12:42 – 1: 18 the battery percentage reached 100%. It took about 50 minutes.|
To conclude our research, we found that the iPhone charged faster with it being very sunny. The more cloudy it was, the harder it was for the phone to charge. The cloudy weather caused the battery power to go farther down every time the sun was blocked.
In the beginning of the project, we were all very excited with this topic. We were so happy that we had thought of this idea and we were ready to create something spectacular. This lasted about two weeks or so, and then I started to find myself, and the group not working on anything and making excuses to not do anything. This made me a bit angry, it made me feel like the assignment wasn’t being taken seriously by my group members. So I knew what I had to do, I either had to choose between staying with them, or leaving the group and creating my own project. So, I decided to do, what I thought was best and leave. Leaving the group doesn’t make me a bad person. I wanted to create something, learn something, and be able to feel successful and be successful with the outcome of my project and the grade that I receive. I didn’t want to be a part of something that I felt wasn’t going to get anywhere. So I became my own leader and created my own thing.
Working on my own allowed me to think for myself and create what I wanted to create. Working on my own allowed me to learn more about myself and how I plan things. Working by yourself requires a lot of planning. And I mean A LOT. You have to set schedules and to do lists for yourself and make sure that you have things done by specific due dates. A lot of people don’t like working by themselves in group projects because of the stress it’s put on them and all of the responsibility but I believe that it can help you, and it’s always good to try something different for a change.
So what I decided to do was create something called a Mason Jar. A mason jar, named after John Landis Mason who first invented and patented it in 1858, is a molded glass jar that preferably is used for home canning to preserve food. But, if you have a creative mind like me, you could create anything with a Mason Jar. Even possibly a jar that glows. A mason jar with a solar light! So that’s what I did, or tried to at least.
Before I even started my jar I decided to begin experiments with my math teacher Mr. Walach. Together we created circuits with old Christmas lights and 9 volt batteries. While experimenting we found that 6 Christmas lights that connected to each other by the copper wire, created a circuit and stayed lit up for about 2 hours. While creating my own circuit I not only learned about how to create the circuit but I also learned about how to use a wire cutter (which is extremely hard) and I learned about why circuits work the way that they do.
Here is the circuit that I had created and the wire cutter that I had to use:
With six lights I put electrical tape to hold the copper wire to the battery to create a connected circuit and make sure that each piece of copper wire connected with each other. I then began the circuit at 11:16 am on April 19th and then I connected a lab quest to see how long the lights would last before burning out. Unfortunately, the lab quest that I used disappeared and had been tampered with. At the end, I did not get to fully know for sure all of the data, but I did get to know that it lasted for about 2 hours due to my teacher’s supervision.
After creating the circuit I had to do an extensive amount of research about how circuits actually work and I had found out that there are actually two types of circuits. A series circuit and a parallel circuit. The difference between a series circuit and a parallel circuit is that in a series circuit, the current through each of the components is the same, and the voltage across the circuit is the sum of the voltage across each component. A series circuit consists of nodes and current flow. A node is an electrical junction between two or more components.
While researching on this circuit, I had to not only write about how current flows but learn about it as well. In a series circuit, current flows from a high voltage to a lower voltage in a circuit. Some amount of current will flow through every path it can take to get to the point of lowest voltage. A series circuit tends to look a lot like this:
While a parallel circuit looks like this:
In a parallel circuit, the circuit has two or more paths for current to flow through. Voltage is the same across each component of the parallel circuit. The sum of the currents through each path is equal to the total current that flows from the source.
At the end, this is what it ended up looking like. My jar of hearts. No I mean jar of lights. I told myself that I would create a jar with a solar light in it, but instead I ended my project with a Mason jar and a couple of purple string lights. These string lights were packaged with two sets of Micro 30 LED lights which were very convenient. It included a simple button cell power and heat insulated copper wire to ensure safe usage. The string lights were favorable because of the flexibility of the lights. The type of batteries that were included in these lights were two CR2032 batteries. A CR2032 battery is a button cell lithium battery rated at 3.0 volts.
It is commonly used as a CMOS battery in computers, calculators, remote controls, scientific instruments, watches, and other small devices. The current of this battery also tends to be 10mA.
After my first test/experiment, I decided to create another series circuit and see if I could try and collect the data one last time without anybody messing with the lab quest. After creating a circuit with six lights I then wondered if more lights that were connected would last any longer or shorter than the last circuit that I tested. After cutting a few wires and connecting them together, I decided to create a longer circuit with more lights. At first, I thought my experiment was going great until the light had turned on and then off. I looked at the lights to see if anything had malfunctioned and apparently if you use more than six lights the lights will burn out. I then decided to create another circuit with only three, and then two, and then one, and each one that I did and created, the lights all burned out. After this, I did not try again and I don’t know why. I kind of believed that maybe, possibly, all of the Christmas lights that were left were going to burn out, and that’s what made me stop creating my own circuits, negative thinking. And..
Since I did not think positively, and instead negatively, I didn’t do things in my project just as well and as good as I hoped so. I didn’t try again and again like most scientists would do and I think that was one of the problems that I had.
Many people have asked me what the point of my project was, it was one of my ‘most asked questions’. My response to them was that I didn’t know, at the time I didn’t know, but now I do. I created something that was not what I wanted to create, in any way, but I created something that helped me learn more about myself and helped me learn more about lights and how solar lights work.
I didn’t create a solar light jar, but that is what I intended to do. Even if I didn’t originally create a solar light, I still learned a lot about them and how they work. Solar lights are made up of solar cells, a small battery, and a light bulb. The solar cells transfer and store the energy into the small battery. The battery then powers the light bulb. The result is an energy efficient light bulb with bright light. Solar power lights also require no electricity.
These lights convert the sun’s rays into electricity power and the lights shine for hours after the sun goes down. Solar lights work because of the photovoltaic effect. The most important part of a solar light is the photovoltaic or solar cell. The solar cell is the part that converts sunlight into direct electrical current. You can clearly see the solar cell as a dark panel at the top of a solar light.
A solar cell consists of multiple layers of crystalline silicone and chemicals that create layers of negatively charged electrons and positively-charged spaces. As sunlight passes through the solar cell, it excites the negatively-charged electrons and pushes them into the positively-charged spaces.
The positively-charged spaces then transfer the electron stream as a direct current of electricity through wires embedded into the solar cell to a battery where the electricity is stored until it’s needed. The battery charges throughout the day as sunlight continues to be converted to electricity.
When evening approaches, the solar cell stops converting sunlight as it weakens and eventually disappears. A photoreceptor on the light detects when it’s dark and turns on the light, which is usually made up of several light-emitting diodes (LEDs). The battery then supplies electricity to the light throughout the night.
This process repeats on a daily cycle. During the day, sunlight is converted too electricity and stored in the battery. At night, the battery supplies the electricity to the light until it is all used up or the photoreceptor shuts off the light as daylight reappears.
Of course, adequate sunlight is necessary to charge the battery fully. During the summer, this shouldn’t be a problem as long as the light is placed where it can receive direct sunlight for most of the day. If possible, make sure no trees or bushes create shade that could affect the charging of the solar light.
During the winter, however, a solar light might not be able to receive enough sunlight to charge the battery sufficiently to stay lit all night. This occurs because in winter nights are longer and days are shorter, resulting in fewer hours of sunlight to charge the battery. In addition, wintertime often brings snow, which can block the solar cell and prevent charging during the day.
As soon as I started the prototype of my project, I first got the jar from a good friend and then I didn’t know where to buy a small solar light to fit inside the top of the jar. My goal at the time was to complete something to gain that great feeling of success, but I also wanted to create something that people could look at and think, “Wow! That’s really cool”. At first, I think the reason why me working in the group didn’t work was because my group members were so invested in trying to get the grade they wanted and trying to make sure that they’re successful and their project was perfect. They didn’t care much about the content or the work in between, they simply wanted to get an A and be done with the project. They researched to write in our science journals (where we took notes and wrote out our plans) they didn’t research to learn. Just because I didn’t fully complete my experiment, doesn’t mean that I wasn’t successful.
I feel that if you learned something even if you were completely successful, it still counts for something. People seem to underestimate success and believe that it all happens in a straight line
but really to try and reach success, it takes a couple twists and turns and it’s harder than it seems. It’s easy to believe that you can reach something from so far away if you plan it out and research what you’re trying to do, but sometimes it takes more than just a couple words written down as your ‘plan’. Sometimes all it takes is a few experiments to reach that spot of success that you want, even if that spot is not really where you were aiming for.