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Solar Powered Fabric – go outside, be your own back up battery

Photo by Jeff Miller/UW-Madison

We’ve seen a variety of bags that were outfitted to harness solar energy but what if you could charge your phone with your t-shirt? It’s not a reality yet but two researchers are trying to bring wearable solar fabric to the world.

There already are some solar fabrics that are used in stadiums and carparks, however, you’d have to be pretty desperate for clothing to think about wearing them. They’re not exactly gentle on the skin. Which, as it turns out, is one of the first hurdles to this whole process. Solar panels are very rigid and the current methods of working them into fabric make the fabric not very nice. Marianne Fairbanks and Trisha Andrew are working on ways to incorporate solar technology into actual wearable options.

They are currently using a process to coat materials in four layers of substances that create the solar panel. Now the focus is trying to sort out which fabrics would work best with this process. Although they all take the coating without issue, they react differently to the energy. Some fabrics turn it into heat, others conduct it just fine. Though it’s still under development, one day you may be picking out your drapes based on how fast they can charge you phone.

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