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Wearing Solar Fabrics

The idea of wearing solar fabrics may look like a piece in a sci-fi movie, but the fact is it is not new or fictitious.

Researchers around the globe have been trying to figure out how to incorporate solar technology into wearable designs for years.

A solar fabric will be lightweight, portable, foldable, wearable and capable of trapping more of the sun’s rays. This  is because the fabric will be collecting sunlight from many different angles at once, whereas flat panels can only collect rays from one installed direction.

Many solar fabric innovations have involved either printing solar cells onto regular fabrics or weaving solar technology into or on fabric which are extremely cool ideas, but a new project by an international team of scientists have found a way to make fibers that work like self-contained solar cells.

The silicon-based fibers are photovoltaic, just like crystalline silicon solar cells used in solar panels, and could eventually be used to make electricity generating fabrics for clothes, backpacks and many other things.

Beyond just making a photovoltaic fiber in order to make solar power fabric, the fibers must be bendable and long enough to do something with. The team has already made meter-long fibers with the material, but they think they can achieve 10 meters or longer (about 35 feet) of flexible silicon based solar cell fibers.

“Long, fiber-based solar cells give us the potential to do something we could not really do before, we can take the silicon fibers and weave them together into fabric with a wide range of applications such as power generation, battery charging, chemical sensing, and biomedical devices,” said John Badding, a professor of chemistry at Penn State University and the lead researcher on the project.

These solar fibers could not only charge our gadgets, but will also become wearable power sources for military soldiers who usually carry heavy batteries for their electronics.

Sounds like an ingenious idea.

Image: http: www.science.psu.edu/news-and-events/2012-news/Badding12-2012

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