Solar cells as an art form


When most of us tackle a project, we have a certain problem to solve. 3D printing, microcontrollers, batteries and all kinds of technologies are usually tools to accomplish certain tasks. This is not necessarily true in the art world, however, where the intrinsic nature of these tools can be explored for their own sake rather than as a means to an end. The latest to hit our desk is this light-powered sound generator.

The artwork looks a bit like a mobile with rotating arms, containing various small solar cells each connected to a speaker. As the arms rotate, the light falling on the cells changes, resulting in a specially designed circuit connected to a speaker. The circuit acts as an oscillator, passing the cell’s changing voltage through various capacitors and transistors to produce changing tones in the speaker.

The effect of rotating solar panels is not just oscillations of the speakers as the light changes, but oscillations in the sound of the speakers as they rotate towards and away from the viewer. This is a unique and perfect project for the art exhibit it was in. It’s also not the only sound-focused art rig we’ve seen before, be sure to check out this one based on an ESP32.


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