Tiny Solar Cells Embedded In Clothing Can Generate Up To 80 Milliwatts Of Power

  • Researchers found a new way to embed solar cells into yarn, which can then be woven into textiles. 
  • A small textile with 200 cells generates 2.5 – 10 volts of electric potential. 
  • It’s enough to charge a mobile phone and a smartwatch. 

Integration of solar cells into clothing isn’t something new. In the last few couples of years, we have seen numerous clothing-integrated photovoltaics that provide enough electricity to charge portable electronic devices.

However, the size and reliability of such systems still remain one of the biggest issues. And since they all are quite uncomfortable, incentivizing people to actually wear this technology would be a challenging task.

Recently, researchers at Nottingham Trent University came up with a new method to embed tiny solar cells into yarn, which can then be woven into textiles. The technique has been proven to charge a Fitbit and a mobile phone.

Miniaturized Cells Incorporated Into a Textile

Each cell is 3*1.5 (length*width) millimeters in size. They can’t be felt by the wearer and are almost invisible to the naked eye. These cells are encapsulated in a synthetic organic polymer, which enables the textile fabric to be washed.

Garments equipped with these cells appear the same as usual clothing, and can be worn like any other form of clothing. According to the researchers, they produce power in a sustainable manner.

Since electronic devices are increasing at an impressive rate, the demand for power supply is also at its peak. This technology — smart textiles — provides an easy and convenient option to users to charge devices like phones and smartwatches while on the move.

Source: Nottingham Trent University

Researchers have built a dense network of miniaturized cells within the fibers. In particular, they developed a small textile (5*5 centimeters in size), containing 200 cells that together generate up to 80 milliwatts of power or 2.5 – 10 volts of electric potential.

It’s powerful enough to charge a Fitbit and a mobile phone. The team says if 2,000 cells were embedded into fabric it would produce enough electricity to charge a smartphone.

This environment-friendly solution can reduce the need for plugging devices into wall sockets while lowering carbon emissions. In fact, these tiny solar cells can be used in several new ways to generate power, by utilizing them in other stuff like fashion accessories, and more.

Limitations

The technology has numerous limitations: the tiny cells, for instance, need to be oriented to the sunlight. Also, they need to be connected together in particular series-parallel sequence to generate maximum power.

Considering real-world situations, only the cells placed on the top of one’s shoulder would get the maximum sunlight. The rest would be shadowed by the body or oriented in wrong directions.

Read: Most Efficient, Dual-Layer Solar Cell With 22.4% Efficiency

Although researchers have mentioned that their dainty cells are washable, would they survive in clothing that is being repeatedly washed in machines and tumble-dried in dryers?

Written by
Varun Kumar

Varun Kumar is a professional science and technology journalist and a big fan of AI, machines, and space exploration. He received a Master's degree in computer science from Indraprastha University. To find out about his latest projects, feel free to directly email him at [email protected] 

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