Solar Panels Embedded In Clothes Are The Future Of Mobile Phone Charging

Found yourself stuck with low phone battery and no charger? The future will fix that - thanks to clothing embedded with tiny solar cells the size of a flea!

A team at Nottingham Trent University have developed miniaturised solar panels that can be embedded into yarn and knitted/woven into textiles. And the result? Wearers can generate their own electricity on the move and actually charge their phones and smartwatches.

So, this is kind of crazy… Allow me to explain how they did it.

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The solar cells themselves are only three millimetres in length and 1.5 millimetres in width - almost invisible to the naked eye and not felt by the wearer. Once made, they are encapsulated in a resin that allows the clothing to be treated like any other, as in being washed and worn.

On a normal day, up to 200 of these cells can generate 2.5-10 volts and up to 80 milliwatts of power - proven by making a 5x5cm size textile with this number of cells embedded. In a more understandable scenario tested by NTU, this was enough to successfully charge a mobile phone and a Fitbit. By extension, the researchers concluded that if 2,000 cells were used, they could have enough power to charge a smartphone.

“By embedding miniaturised solar cells into yarn we can create clothing and fabric that generate power in a sustainable way,” project lead Professor Tilak Dias, of the School of Art & Design commented.

“The electrical power demand for smart e-textiles has always been its Achilles heel and this technology will allow people to use smart textiles while on the move.”

Researcher Achala Satharasinghe, who developed the prototype as part of his PhD at the university, said: “This is an exciting technology which could revolutionise the way we think about solar power, clothing and wearable technology.”

“It will allow mobile devices to be charged in environmentally-friendly ways which are more convenient for consumers than ever before.”

All in all, top work by the university I graduated from. As the future becomes inevitably more technological, the question always becomes one of the strain on our resources and its impact on the climate. How can we become a more power dependant species without destroying the planet around us?

Well, through something like this, we may have just one of many small ways that will make a huge, positive difference.

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