How Does a Solar Charger Work?

How Does a Solar Charger Work?

A portable solar charger can come in handy in so many situations. We live in a digital world and count on our phones, tablets, and laptops 24/7 to keep us connected, productive and entertained. But these devices need electricity to operate, and sometimes we just don’t have an outlet to plug them into.

The most common place to have no access to electricity is in the great outdoors. In other words, off the grid. Whether you are camping, hiking, or enjoying a day at the beach, you need access to power for your devices. Luckily, there is an easy solution – all you need to do is look up. The sun provides more than enough energy to keep your digital world running, and all you need is a portable solar panel to harness this energy.    

What Is Electricity?

Before we talk about the sun, let’s talk about what you want from it. You want electricity to keep your phone charged. But what exactly is electricity?

Everything is made of atoms, and atoms are made of protons, neutrons, and electrons. Protons have a positive charge, electrons have a negative charge and neutrons don’t have any charge. The protons and neutrons stay at the center of the atom and never move while the electrons are on the outer edges and can move under certain circumstances. If you can get a lot of electrons moving, you have electricity.

When atoms bond together to make molecules, they share electrons. There is a certain type of atomic bond called a “metallic bond” where the electrons become de-localized and can move more freely within the material. This makes materials with metallic bonds (like copper or aluminum) good conductors of electricity because the electrons can get moving.

Electrons are motivated to move by a positive charge because the negatively charged electrons are attracted to a positive charge. If there is a positive charge at one end of the conductor, electricity will flow on that conductor. If you put a load, like a lightbulb, along the path of electricity, the energy of the electrons will power that load as they pass through it on their way to the source of the positive charge.

How Is Electricity Measured?

Electricity is quantified primarily by 3 units of measure:

  • Volt - measures of the pressure that pushes the electrons through the conductors, which is called voltage.
  • Ampere (amp) - measures the current, which is the number of electrons flowing through the conductor.
  • Watt - measures the amount of power, which is the rate at which electrical energy is transferred.   

The relationship between voltage, current and power is simple: voltage multiplied by current gives you the amount of power. Basically: Volts x Amps = Watts. So, if you are looking at a solar panel output, the amount of volts it produces times the amount of amps it produces will be the wattage of that solar panel.

How Does a Solar Cell Work?

Solar panels are made from solar cells that have special layers of materials called semi-conductors. These materials will only generate electricity when they are exposed to sunlight through a process called the “Photovoltaic Effect.” This process can happen all day long while the sun is shining, so you can charge your cell phone with a portable solar panel attached to your backpack while you are mountain biking, fishing, or working on a construction site. It even can work on a cloudy day, albeit less efficiently.

What is the Photovoltaic Effect?

There are three layers of semi-conductor material in a solar cell: n-type material, p-type material and the p-n junction between them. The n-type material is negatively charged because it has extra electrons. The p-type material is positively charge because it is missing electrons. Keep in mind, these materials are not full conductors so the electrons aren’t going to move like they would in a metal like copper, the electrons in the solar cell material only move when they get energy which comes from sunlight.

When sunlight hits the solar cell, the electrons get a boost of energy and are ready to move. As we have discussed, the electrons want to move toward the positive charge so the p-n junction between the p-type material and the n-type material is very important. Without the p-n junction, all the electrons would just move from the n-type material to the p-type material and the story would be over. But the p-n junction won’t let the electrons flow to the p-type material.

For the electrons to move from the n-type material to the p-type material, we need to set up conductors to give them a pathway called a “circuit.” Along this circuit we can add a load, like a lightbulb. As the electrons flow through the light bulb, they will transfer their energy to the bulb and light it up.     

Another important part of this process within the solar cell is the that the electrons that run the whole circuit and end up in the p-type material in the solar cell do not stay there. Rather, the electrons that arrive in the p-type material are pushed through the p-n junction into the negative material so they will make the journey around the circuit again and again.

The cycle will continue whenever there is sunlight giving energy to electrons in the n-type material of the solar cell causing them to flow onto the conductors toward the p-type material. As a result, solar panels can continue to produce energy for years, making them a such a good investment.   

How Does a Solar Charger Work


Can a Solar Panel Charge a Phone or Tablet?

SunJack folding solar panel chargers include all the necessary electronics to regulate the power coming from the solar panel to charge your phone. As far as your devices are concerned, plugging your phone into a SunJack portable solar panel is the same as plugging it into a wall outlet or the DC power plug in your car. SunJack solar panels provide wall outlet charging speed, or better!

Any device that can be charged with a USB cable can be charged with our portable solar panels. This includes:

  • Phone
  • Tablet
  • iPad
  • Camera
  • Small Laptop
  • Chrome Book
  • Kindle
  • Portable Speaker
  • Vape Pen
  • Flashlight
  • Radio
  • Electronic Lighter

    How do Solar Panels Work at Night or When There Is No Sun?

    The simple answer is, they don’t. Solar panels do not work at night for obvious reasons. Without any sunlight, there is no energy for the solar panels to convert to electricity through the Photovoltaic Effect.  The issue, though, is many outdoor adventures last longer than the daylight hours - we all know the best bands at the music festival play at night, the best stories are told at night around campfires, and stargazing is one of our lost past times. No need to worry. SunJack has you covered with their powerbank battery, which can power at all times of the day and night.

    So how exactly do batteries work? All batteries have a negatively charged electrode, which has extra electrons, and a positively charged electrode, which is missing electrons. Similar to solar cell materials, extra electrons move from the negatively charged place to the positively charged place when you create a circuit. As they move through the circuit, they will power any loads along the way.

    Eventually, all the electrons move from the positive to the negative electrode and the battery will not power any more loads. In other words, the battery is out of juice. This is which is where the solar panel comes into play.

    How Does a Solar Panel Charge a Battery?

    If the battery is on the circuit between the n-type material and p-type material of the solar cell, then the electrons flowing through that circuit will re-charge the battery. The energy from those electrons will reverse the chemical reactions in the battery so that the negatively charged electrode will fill back up with electrons and the battery will have energy stored in it again.

    With a fully charged powerbank battery, you can use your phone, camera, laptop or any other electronic device during the day or night without the charging cord in your way. All you need to do is plug your portable solar panel into the powerbank battery to capture the solar energy that will, in turn, charge your devices.

    Where Do I Need Portable Power?

    With a durable folding solar panel and a compact battery, the possibilities are endless. It all depends on your specific case and lifestyle. 

    You can hang a waterproof solar panel on your backpack so it can charge your phone while you are kayaking or hiking. Leave a second solar panel at your tent charging a battery back so you can watch videos on your tablet or check emails on your laptop at night.

    SunJack portable solar panels are shock proof and drop proof so you can hang one on your saddle bag while horseback riding or wear one on your back while mountain biking. You can take your Powerbank battery with you to run your phone’s GPS while hiking and leave the weatherproof solar panel at your campsite charging your flashlight.  

    A folding solar panel is also useful when charging devices during less rugged activities. You can keep your battery charged while you stream live on Facebook from the beach or a theme park.

    People who work outdoors need power too. You can set up the weatherproof folding solar panel to charge your powerbank battery while you are on a construction site or doing roadwork.  Re-charge your phone on your lunch break or supply power to your laptop so that you can access the blueprints. You can wear your portable solar panel on your back while landscaping or doing roadwork so you can stay connected even if you forgot to charge your phone the night before.

    The possibilities are endless!

    Are Solar Panels Beneficial During Emergencies and Disasters?

    You can never be too prepared. Having a folding solar panel and powerbank battery with a USB chargeable flashlight in your car means never being left in the dark on the side of the road. You can keep a charged powerbank battery in your basement to keep your small electronics powered while sheltering from a storm.

    A portable solar panel is a prepper necessity for prolonged power outages caused by earthquakes and wildfires and is essential for any hurricane prep kit. You can use the endless supply of power to stay connected, have emergency lighting and get the latest news for days at a time. Most importantly, you can keep your phones charged to stay in touch with loved ones or to contact emergency help.

    As long as the sun is shining, you will have power with SunJack portable solar panels.

    Make a Portable Solar Charger Work for You

    So now that you know how a portable solar panel and battery charger work together to provide you with power, the next step is to buy them. SunJack’s folding solar panels are the best choice for a durable, weatherproof, compact outdoor power solution to charge all your devices while you work or play in the sun. Don’t hesitate to contact us with questions. We are here to help.