from Come Fly With Me – Exploring Science through aviation and aerospace concepts.

solar cells data table worksheet

SUBJECT: Science
GRADE: 7,8,9
TIME: 60 minutes
TYPE OF ACTIVITY: Student Investigation
TEACHING STRATEGY: Guided Discovery Expository
CONCEPTS: Solar Energy Solar Cell Solar Transmission
SKILLS: Hypothesizing Collecting Data Interpreting Data
Objectives: To demonstrate that solar energy passes through some materials and not through others; to compare the amount of electricity produced by a solar cell when light is passed through different materials in front of the cell; to identify and hypothesize how certain materials are able to transmit solar energy and others are not.

Materials: A solar cell; milli-ammeter or galvanometer; 5cm squares of plastic sheets in several colors – red, blue, yellow, green; wax paper; glass; tissue; foil; a pair of sun glasses; cardboard; wood; a leaf; container of water; any other material you wish to include; a 200 watt bulb with reflector or spotlight in case the sun is not shining; (Optional – a pyranometer which measures the amount of light being absorbed at any given time – to be used in place of the miliammeter); activity sheet.

  1. Hook up your solar cell to the meter you have available. Position the solar cell facing the sun or the lamp so that you get the maximum reading on your meter.
  2. Record the reading on the table from the activity sheet.
  3. Test and record readings while using all of the other materials in turn.
  4. Have the students rank the materials from best transmitter of solar energy to worst.
  5. Have the students hypothesize about what must be true of a material to be a good transmitter of solar energy.


Have the students identify and control any variables in their experiments which they may not have taken into account during the first try. Did results change? Try combinations of materials and compare these results with the first experiment. Compare the results with experiments on heat absorption by different colored materials. Have the students research the uses of solar power in spacecraft. Find information on the proposed projection of solar power to the earth by microwave from collectors in space. Read about the Gossamer Albatross solar powered plane and get a film about it from NASA.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.