Flea-sized solar panels embedded in CLOTHES can charge a mobile phone

Clothing embedded with tiny solar cells the size of a flea will allow wearers to generate electricity on the move and charge items like mobile phones and smartwatches.

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Bright idea! Clothes embedded with solar cells to charge your mobile phone

Clothing embedded with tiny solar cells the size of a flea can allow wearers to generate electricity on the move and charge items like mobile phones and smartwatches.

Nottingham Trent University has developed a way to embed miniaturised solar cells into yarn that can then be knitted and woven into textiles.

The technology has been tested and proven to charge a mobile phone and a Fitbit.

The cells are encapsulated in a resin which allows the textile fabric to be washed and worn like any other form of clothing.

Measuring only three millimetres in length and 1.5 millimetres in width, the cells are almost invisible to the naked eye and cannot be felt by the wearer.

For all intents and purposes, garments appear exactly the same as any other form of clothing despite having the capability to generate electricity.

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

“The clothing would look and behave like any other textile, but within the fibres would be a network of miniaturised cells which are creating electricity.

“This could do away with the need to plug items into wall sockets and reduce the demand on the grid while cutting carbon emissions.

“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.”

A miniature solar cell
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A miniature solar cell

Up to 200 miniaturised cells can generate 2.5-10 volts and up to 80 miliwatts in power. The university’s Advanced Textiles Research Group made a proof of concept textile of 5cm by 5cm size with 200 cells.

This proved powerful enough to charge a mobile phone and a Fitbit (please see video). Researchers say if 2,000 solar cells were incorporated into a textile it would generate enough power to charge a smart phone.

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.

“With the availability of miniaturised solar cells we can generate power in a range of new ways, by utilising things like clothing, fashion accessories, textiles and more.

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

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    About Nottingham Trent University

    Nottingham Trent University (NTU) was named University of the Year 2017 at the Times Higher Education Awards, and Modern University of the Year in the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2018. These awards recognise NTU for its high levels of student satisfaction, its quality of teaching, its engagement with employers, and its overall student experience.

    NTU has been rated Gold in the Government’s Teaching Excellence Framework – the highest ranking available.

    NTU is one of the largest UK universities. With 30,000 students and more than 4,000 staff located across four campuses, the University contributes £900m to the UK economy every year. It is one of the UK’s most environmentally friendly universities, containing some of the sector’s most inspiring and efficient award-winning buildings. 96% of its graduates go on to employment or further education within six months of leaving.

    Our student satisfaction is high: NTU achieved an 88% satisfaction score in the 2018 National Student Satisfaction Survey.
    The University is passionate about creating opportunities and its extensive outreach programme is designed to enable Nottingham Trent to be a vehicle for social mobility. NTU is among the UK’s top five recruiters of students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

    NTU is home to world-class research, and won The Queen’s Anniversary Prize in 2015 – the highest national honour for a UK university. It recognised the University’s pioneering projects to improve weapons and explosives detection in luggage; enable safer production of powdered infant formula; and combat food fraud.

    With an international student population of over 3,000 from around 100 countries, the University prides itself on its global outlook

Flea-sized solar panels embedded in CLOTHES can charge a mobile phone

Published on 17 December 2018
  • Category: Press office

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