Solar panels are not new to us and today it's being employed extensively in all sectors. The main property of this device to convert solar energy to electrical energy has made it very popular and now it's being strongly considered as the future solution for all electrical power crisis or shortages.
Solar energy may be used directly for powering an electrical equipment or simply stored in an appropriate storage device for later use.
Normally there's only one efficient way of storing electrical power, and it's by using rechargeable batteries.
Rechargeable batteries are probably the best and the most efficient way of collecting or storing electrical energy for later usage.
The energy from a solar cell or a solar panel can also be effectively stored so that it can be used as per ones own preference, normally after the sun has set or when it's dark and when the stored power becomes much needed for operating the lights.
Though it might look quite simple, charging a battery from a solar panel is never easy, because of two reasons:
The voltage from a solar panel can vary hugely, depending upon the incident sun rays, and
The current also varies due to the same above reasons.
The above two reason can make the charging parameters of a typical rechargeable battery very unpredictable and dangerous.
But thanks to the modern highly versatile chips like the LM 338 and LM 317, which can handle the above situations very effectively, making the charging process of all rechargeable batteries through a solar panel very safe and desirable.
The circuit of a simple LM338 solar battery charger is shown below, using the IC LM338:
The circuit diagram shows a simple set up using the IC LM 338 which has been configured in its standard regulated power supply mode.
The specialty of the design is that it incorporates a current control feature also.
It means that, if the current tends to increase at the input, which might normally take place when the sun ray intensity increases proportionately, the voltage of the charger drops proportionately, pulling down the current back to the specified rating.
As we can see in the diagram, the collector/emitter of the transistor BC547 is connected across the ADJ and the ground, it becomes responsible for initiating the current control actions.
As the input current rises, the battery starts drawing more current, this build up a voltage across R3 which is translated into a corresponding base drive for the transistor.
The transistor conducts and corrects the voltage via the C LM338, so that the current rate gets adjusted as per the safe requirements of the battery.
PCB Design for the above explained simple solar battery charger circuit is given below:
The meter and the input diode are not included in the PCB.