Are Solar Clothes to Power your devices a step closer?

Posted by

Solar Clothes to Power Your Devices

Researchers have been working on embedding solar cells in clothes for more than a decade. The reason is simple: Flexible solar cells, when integrated into clothing, can also provide power for portable electronic devices

Scientists, according to work published in the Nature Energy science journal, say they have developed a new type of ultra-thin photovoltaic device, coated on both sides with stretchable and waterproof films, which can continue to provide electricity from sunlight even after being soaked in water or being stretched and compressed. The scientists from the Japan-based research institute RIKEN and the University of Tokyo, according to an 18 September press release, have developed extremely thin and flexible organic photovoltaic cells (these convert sunlight into electricity), based on a material called PNTz4T, which they had developed in earlier work.

The ultra-thin device was then placed on to an acrylic-based elastomer (rubbery material composed of long chain-like molecules, or polymers) and the top side of the device was coated with an identical elastomer, giving it a coating on both sides to prevent water infiltration. The elastomer, while allowing light to enter, prevents water and air from leaking into the cells, making them more long lasting than previous experiments.

The researchers then subjected the device to a variety of tests. To test the resistance of the cells to water, they soaked the device in water for 2 hours, and found that the efficiency decreased by just 5.4%. And to test the durability, they subjected it to compression, and found that after compressing by nearly half for 20 cycles while placing drops of water on it, it still had 80% of the original efficiency.

In the press release, Kenjiro Fukuda, research scientist at the RIKEN Center for Emergent Matter Science, says, “We very much hope that these washable, lightweight and stretchable organic photovoltaics will open a new avenue for use as a long-term power source system for wearable sensors and other devices.”

Researchers have been working on embedding solar cells in clothes for more than a decade. The reason is simple: Flexible solar cells, when integrated into clothing, can also provide power for portable electronic devices.

Netherlands-based fashion designer Pauline van Dongen, for one, launched a Solar Shirt in 2015, which was developed in collaboration with the Netherlands-based Holst Centre—an independent research and development (R&D) centre that develops technologies for wireless autonomous sensor technologies and flexible electronics. The Solar Shirt, work on which was on since 2014, incorporates 120 thin film solar cells that are combined into standardized functional modules using Holst Centre’s stretchable interconnect technology for integrating electronics into fabrics.

The modules can be mass-manufactured and incorporated into the fabric using familiar industrial “iron-on” techniques before the garment is stitched. In bright sunlight, it produces around 1 watt of electricity—enough to charge a typical phone in a few hours, according to van Dongen’s website.

The shirt, the website adds, generates enough power indoors to charge a phone. The shirt can also charge smartphones, MP3 players, cameras, GPS systems, and other USB-compatible hand-held or portable devices, according to a 16 March 2015 press release by Holst Centre.

In a paper published in Advanced Functional Materials in May, materials scientist Trisha Andrew at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and colleagues outlined how they have invented a way to apply breathable, pliable, metal-free electrodes to fabric, and off-the-shelf clothing, so it feels good to the touch and also transports enough electricity to power small electronics.

In their paper, Andrew and postdoctoral researcher Lu Shuai Zhang describe the method (vapour deposition) they use to coat fabrics with a conducting polymer—poly (3,4-ethylenedioxytiophene) also known as PEDOT—to make plain-woven, conducting fabrics that are resistant to stretching and wear and remain stable after washing and ironing.

“Our article describes the materials science needed to make these robust conductors,” Andrew said in a 23 May press release. “We show them to be stable to washing, rubbing, human sweat and a lot of wear and tear,” she added. Andrew and Zhang are working “on taking any garment you give us and turning it into a solar cell so that as you are walking around, the sunlight that hits your clothes can be stored in a battery or be plugged in to power a small electronic device”.

Meanwhile, Andrew and Marianne Fairbanks, assistant professor of textiles and design at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, too, are developing a solar textile that could end up in clothing, curtains, car seats and tents.

Which Base layer - A buyers guide

Which Base Layer - A Buyers GuideBase Layers, sometimes referred to as Foundation or Primary Layers, form the basis of any clothing layering system. Designed to sit next to the skin and "Wick" sweat away to provide a dry "Thermally Regulated" result. They are NOT just for the cold weather as many people [...]

Read More »

Rethinking Odour Control

Debra Cobb / FeaturedBody odors are the result of bacterial activity and can be described by their chemical compounds. Graphic by Compound Interest, courtesy of Sensory Spectrum.New antimicrobial technologies focus on treatments for ‘permastink.’It’s everywhere, and it’s not attractive. Permastink—the unpleasant smell that won’t wash out of textile products—has become a topic of conversation for [...]

Read More »

Managing Expectations

I’m a day hiker who usually walks about 1,200km per year, on the mountains. The distances vary between 30km and 60km on Irish mountains.I can’t afford ‘cheap’ or badly made garments. If it’s cheap, you invariably have to buy a replacement as you don’t get the wear out of it. So, I look for a [...]

Read More »

Why you Won't Freeze or Starve Ultralight Backpacking

Why You Won’t Freeze or Starve Ultralight BackpackingIt’s a myth that ultralight backpacking makes you cold, wet and hungry. It doesn’t. In fact, I’ll wager that with my 5 pounds of ultralight gear I’m more comfortable, sleep better, and eat better than many campers carrying 20 to 30 pounds of conventional/heavier backpacking gear. So, here [...]

Read More »

Wild Camping Advice from and adventure cyclist

WILD CAMPING ADVICE FROM AN ADVENTURE CYCLIST SHARE ON: WARREN ESTHER — APRIL 18, 2016Cycle Touring. Adventure Cycling. Expedition Biking. Whatever you want to call it – if you want to know how to go about it in comfort there’s no one better to ask than Warren Sanders. [...]

Read More »

Breathable Waterproof Fabrics for Outdoor use and why i use Hydrophilic membranes in preference to Goretex

Let me start by giving everyone the opportunity to dump their eVent, Goretex, Aclimatise or anyother type of breathable shell for a piece of gear which is everything you ever wanted in a shell.Its Light, compact,easily storable, cheap, 100% UV Proof, keeping you cool as well as dry. Its also100% waterproof - even though the [...]

Read More »

Advanced Layering By Philip Werner

Advanced Layering: Temperature Regulation Hacks for Cold Weather and Winter Hiking You can roll up your sleeves to vent access heat on cold weather hikes without removing an entire layer. By doing this, you’re cooling off the blood that passes close to the skin in your wrist.Layering for cold weather and winter hiking is a lot [...]

Read More »

Things to carry when biking or hiking new trails By the MORRgear Team

Things to Carry When Biking or Hiking New Trailsposted by The MORRgear Team on Jul 1, 2015 8:00:00 AM Want to know one of the worst feelings in the world? It’s heading off to an awesome 20-30 mile mountain bike trail, seeing some of the most beautiful scenery known to man, and then having something happen [...]

Read More »

How to wash and reproof a waterproof Shell

A great article from UK Hill walking on garment maintenance How to Wash and Re-Proof a Waterproof Shellby Dan Bailey - 14/Oct/2015 This article has been read 898 timesYou should expect many years' service from a quality waterproof shell, yet over time both dirt and general wear will begin to affect the breathability of [...]

Read More »