Innovation That Matters

| Photo source Nottingham Trent University

Wearable solar panels provide mobile energy source

Computing & Tech

Solar textiles can be used indoors or out and provide enough power to charge a personal device

Spotted: Researchers from the Advanced Textiles Research Group at Nottingham Trent University recently introduced a prototype of a textile containing enough solar panels to power a personal electronic device. Tiny solar panels are embedded into a yarn that is then woven into a textile that is soft, flexible, and washable in water up to 40 degrees Celsius. The prototype generates more than 330 milliwatts of energy in weaker sunlight and up to 394 milliwatts in stronger light.  

The technology can power a tablet, mobile, or other small electronic device. The solar panels are silicon, and each one is five millimetres long by one and half millimetres wide and custom cut to size. After being soldered onto copper wires, the entire piece is encased in polymer resin, making the panel waterproof for washing.

Such a lightweight mobile energy source has many and varied uses, including in clothing, outdoor equipment like backpacks and hats, and indoors on things like interior wall hangings and curtains. No longer tethered, literally, to electrical outlets, the ability to charge devices on the go and far from buildings has the potential to help many groups, including health and emergency care workers and remote communities. The team plans to continue developing the textile and is seeking opportunities to produce a solar panel fabric at scale, while also working on additional applications in industries as varied as architecture and medicine.

Other solar power innovations recently spotted by Springwise include super-efficient solar cells 3D-printed to fit any device, and foldable solar cells that could bring energy to new products

Written By: Keely Khoury

Email: chris.birkle@ntu.ac.uk

Website: ntu.ac.uk/research/groups-and-centres/groups/advanced-textiles

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