This Clothing Embedded With Thousands Of Tiny Solar Panels Can Harness The Sun’s Energy To Charge Phones And Smartwatches

Scientists have developed a woven textile embedded with 1,200 miniature photovoltaic cells – or solar panels – that can charge devices. The research was done at Nottingham Trent University.

These can trap 400 milliwatts of electrical energy from the sun.

Textiles researcher Dr. Theodore Hughes-Riley said: ‘This prototype gives an exciting glimpse of the future potential for e-textiles. Until now very few people would have considered that their clothing or textiles products could be used for generating electricity.’

He added: ‘The material which we have developed, for all intents and purposes, appears and behaves the same as any ordinary textile, as it can be scrunched up and washed in a machine. But hidden beneath the surface is a network of more than a thousand tiny photovoltaic cells which can harness the sun’s energy to charge personal devices.’

The solar cells used are a mere 0.2 in. (5 mm) in length and 0.06 in. (1.5 mm) in width and are undetectable to the wearer.

Each solar cell has a waterproof polymer resin coating and is connected to strong, flexible wiring within the breathable material.

The current prototype is 20 inches by 11 inches (51 cm by 27 cm).

For application, it could be incorporated into a piece of clothing like a jacket or used as part of an accessory such as a backpack. 

It can withstand the same level of exposure as a regular piece of clothing can and can be washed in a machine at 40°C with regular laundry.

Tests demonstrate that it gave a power output of 335.3 milliwatts in 103200 Lux sunlight.

Dr. Hughes-Riley said: ‘Electronic textiles really have the potential to change people’s relationship with technology, as this prototype shows how we could do away with charging many devices at the wall. This exciting development builds on previous technologies we have made and illustrates how it can be scaled up to generate more power.

PhD candidate Matholo Kgatuke, added: ‘This project shows how e-textiles can be at the forefront of sustainability and that they have the potential to reshape our existing conceptions of technology. We have combined long-established weaving techniques with modern technology to create future products which may change people’s perceptions of clothing and electronics.’

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