The e-textile contains 1,200 silicon solar panels that generate up to 393 mWatts from the sun and can power small devices. (Image Credit: Nottingham Trent University)
Nottingham Trent University researchers created a new e-textile with interwoven minuscule photovoltaic cells for recharging devices such as cell phones and smartwatches. The advanced prototype features 1,200 solar panels measuring 5 x 1.5 millimeters each and generates 400 mWatts of solar power. It can also be integrated into clothing or worn on a backpack to provide users with their power needs.
With its strong and flexible wiring, owners can add the textile to other laundry loads, surviving 40°C in a washing machine. The solar cells are also placed within a waterproof polymer resin, so people cannot feel it while being worn. The material, measuring 51 cm x 27 cm, is chemically stable and breathable since the solar cells are made of silicon.
“This prototype gives an exciting glimpse of the future potential for e-textiles,” said Dr. Hughes-Riley, of the university’s Advanced Textiles Research Group (ATRG). “Until now, very few people would have considered that their clothing or textiles products could be used for generating electricity. And 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.“
During tests, the e-textile material produced 335.3 mWatts output under 0.86 sunlight. It also generated 393 mWatts output under 1.0 sunlight. Upscaling the technology means it could be added to backpacks, outerwear, and carrying bags so users can provide power to their devices throughout the day.
“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,” Riley said. “This is an exciting development which builds on previous technologies we have made and illustrates how it can be scaled up to generate more power.”
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