April 9, 2014 AT 5:00 am

Getting Solar Cells in T-Shirts #WearableWednesday



Reduced battery size and flexible circuitry are always fave topics of discussion at any geek’s table. A recent post on Nanowerk introduces polymer solar cells that can be woven into fabric, thus transforming t-shirts into comfy energy harvesters. Notice the Nano in the pic (no pun intended).

Reporting their results in the March 27, 2014 online edition of Advanced Energy Materials (“Weaving Efficient Polymer Solar Cell Wires into Flexible Power Textiles”), researchers in China have developed a novel efficient wire-shaped polymer solar cell by incorporating a thin layer of titania nanoparticles between the photoactive material and electrode.

Sounds like a lot to take in, but their graphic makes it look approachable.


The above image schematically shows the structure of the wire-shaped polymer solar cell (PSC) with a titanium (Ti) wire and an aligned multi-walled carbon nanotube (MWCNT) fiber as cathode and anode, respectively. In a typical fabrication, a Ti wire was modified by growing aligned titania nanotubes on the surface by electrochemical anodization, followed by coating of a layer of titania nanoparticles. Two polymer layers were then dip-coated onto the modified Ti wire. The resulting Ti wire was finally wound with an aligned MWCNT fiber to produce the wire-shaped polymer solar cell.

This material represents many of the changes happening in the industry. The ability to move and endure repetitive movement is critical with wearables. The team did a lot of testing in this regard, and the PSC material handled well, even after 1000 bending cycles. This is good news for tech that really needs to learn how to play well with stretchable fabrics. It’s also clear that nanotechnology is moving swiftly into our clothing, whether it be fabric that is stain proof, bullet proof or color changing. Finally, energy harvesting is a move in a much needed direction, and there is a growing population of people that want to be off grid. This will help take us there, however, if you want some instant gratification, you could give our Solar Charging Handbag tutorial a try.

Solar Handbag

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