Nottingham Trent University researchers have found a new way to charge electronic devices such as cell phones and smartwatches. How? By weaving photovoltaic cells into the fabric of a sports suit.
According to the announcement Institute made last week, the prototype incorporates 1.200 tiny solar panels (each just 5 x 1,5 millimeters). Together, they are capable of generating 400 milliwatts from the sun, enough to keep small gadgets on thanks to the renewable energy source.
"Most people would never think that a dress, a fabric can generate electricity," he explains Theodore Hughes-Riley, lead author of the research and associate professor of electronic fabrics.
The developed material, to all intents and purposes, looks and behaves like any ordinary fabric, because it can be safely rolled up and washed in the washing machine. And because the tiny solar cells are made of silicon, the wearer of a suit created in this way is not even able to notice a difference in the composition of the fabric compared to standard clothing.
The potential uses of "solar" fabric and clothing
The material has the potential to be used on a large scale. Not only in a dress, however, but also in items such as outerwear, backpacks and other transport bags. This would allow people to keep their devices charged while using them throughout the day. "Electronic fabrics have the potential to change our relationship with technology," adds Hughes-Riley.
Great journeys always start with a small step. While we wait for the nuclear fusion o solar energy collected in orbit bring us unlimited energy, it is encouraging to know that even small changes like the composition of a garment can help usher in the necessary renewable energy shift for our species.